The Black Cat

In The Black Cat Edgar Allan Poe’s macabre classic is made ironically self-aware. Poe’s original story is a first-person account from a man who is driven by alcohol and paranoia to become violent to those around him. In this show, two actors sit on stage and tell a contemporary version, frequently interrupting the narrative to deliver witty commentary or or pick apart the story to the audience. It’s a fun, quirky and irreverent concept, and the actors-come-devisers pull it off well. Poe-purists, beware!

Cleverly teases apart the macabre classic in a way that is funny and genuinely engaging to watch.

There is something slightly Brechtian about the way in which the show never attempts to make Poe’s story ‘real’. The stage is set up to look like a radio studio: the actors sit at separate desks with microphones and read from scripts as they recount Poe’s tale. Only when they break character to discuss the story is the play allowed to really come to life.

The two charismatic performers, Olwen Davies and Ollie Smith, do an excellent job in their roles, riffing off each other with a bickering rapport. While they do incorporate elements of the original text, usually in a melodramatic Vincent Price-style horror voice, much over their focus goes towards satirising the piece. One memorable vignette pokes fun at horror’s fascination with women being murdered as it runs through a gruesome medley of alternative endings - in none of themes covered does the female character survive.

The show’s use of sound and props is also charmingly quirky. A balloon with a cat’s face drawn on it is used to represent the eponymous feline, while one of the performers stabs a cabbage next to the microphone to simulate the noise of a murder. Telling a scary story while mocking it at the same time is a nearly impossible task. While the play does have moments of tension, the comic asides and self-aware commentary ultimately prevent the show from achieving the suspense of the original story. This, of course, may not be the point of the production, but it does still leave the finale feeling slightly flat.

This show doesn’t do gothic in any traditional sense, instead it does something much more interesting with Poe’s work. The play cleverly teases apart the macabre classic in a way that is funny and genuinely engaging to watch. 

Reviews by Nuri Syed Corser

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The Blurb

A renegade retelling of Edgar Allan Poe's twisted tale. Two performers dismember the process of adaptation by reimagining a macabre classic with the cheekiest of glints in their eyes. An enigmatic writer adapted Poe's original story and handed scripts over to two performers who are now taking merciless liberties with the words, like a madman taking out a furious rage on a helpless pet. Balanced between the hilarious and the horrific, this show revels in the darkness that hides just under the surface. The Black Cat is gravely good fun, but be warned: it will get catty.