The Basement Tapes

Cleaning out her grandmother's old basement after her death, amongst the usual detritus a woman finds a tape recorder and an accompanying tape which tells the kind of story usually reserved for The Twilight Zone. Stella Reid and her cohort have created a delightfully schlocky, bone-chilling masterpiece. Calling to mind everything from classic chiller The Ring to podcast-sensation Serial, this horror mystery truly gives its audience something it will remember long after the shellshocked applause die down.

a white-knuckle rollercoaster ride that will stick with you for days

The Basement Tapes is a rare spine-chilling hour of true horror theatre, complete with joyously intricate lighting and sound tricks that this comes with. Zanetti Productions have been gifted with a thoroughly creepy actual basement, named 'The Former Women's Locker Room' and capable of an almost complete stage blackout. The atmosphere created in the room throughout the show is one of edge-of-your-seat intensity. This means that it is even more effective when Reid deploys some typically Antipodean humour in the face of terror, be it her dynamic entrance to the stage or her hilariously stilted interaction with a pizza delivery man. The Basement Tapes excels in part because it is surprisingly funny, given the horror surrounding it.

Stella Reid is the only performer on stage for almost the entire running time of the show and she absolutely excels at holding the audience's attention. A hugely expressive actor, it is a thrill just to watch her watching a tape recorder for ten minutes, never mind the emotional range she runs through once the show really gets going. Reid is not the sole creator of the show though and equal praise must be given to sound designer Thomas Lambert, whose aural mischief provides the work with many of its best frights, lighting designer Jason Longstaff, spatial designer Oliver Morse and director Jane Yonge. A performance of this quality is only effective with the right support and the team behind The Basement Tapes are what elevates it from a great show to a great audience experience.

It is refreshing to see a piece of horror theatre performed so effectively and with such a careful eye for detail paid to tone and narrative development. Just enough humour is used to subvert approaching tropes, just enough horror staples are deployed to give the audience a familiar thrill whilst letting them know they are here for something more inventive, and just enough tension is built so that when things start losing their grip on reality we are taken along for that ride with the performer. The Basement Tapes is, amongst thousands of other shows at the Fringe, not only a breath of fresh air but a white-knuckle rollercoaster ride that will stick with you for days afterwards, no matter what other shows you see.

Reviews by Charlie Ralph

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The Basement Tapes

★★★★★
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★★★★
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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Following her grandmother's death, a girl faces the overwhelming task of clearing out the basement. She discovers a series of mysterious tapes with recordings made by her grandmother. As she hears these tapes for the first time, things start to unravel... Twin Peaks meets Serial in this award-winning New Zealand mystery, set and performed literally in a basement. Inspired by podcasts and Robert Lepage's comment that radio is the most visual medium. ****1/2 (Age). ****1/2 (Sydney Morning Herald). 'Totally engaging. A must-see production' (Stuff.co.nz). 'Eerie, thrilling and totally engrossing' (TheatreView.org.nz).