The Indescribable Phenomenon

Part séance, part magic show, part play, The Indescribable Phenomenon is performed beneath a Church for a suitably creepy atmosphere.

Director Sophia Stocco has cleverly used physical theatre in her creative direction; her vision is a nightmarish, gothic version of the story of Anna Eva Fay, the first female stage spiritualist to be accepted into the Magic Circle. The characters are adorned with dirty, monochromatic costumes that are complemented by a minimalist, but effective, lighting design. Dust and chalk are thrown into the air, glittering like ectoplasm in moonlight. Fay’s story is told by three narrators who perform a number of grotesque characters with expressive physicality. A nightmare scene with horrors crawling and screaming through a sheet was particularly frightening.

The performance also includes live magic, with audience members participating in spiritual contact and mind-reading. Smaller magic tricks are performed throughout and add to the general sense of wonder that keeps the audience guessing. The play’s final image ends the performance in beautiful style.

Yet all this trickery comes at the cost of storytelling. Some decent acting is on display, but with a plethora of characters and a confusing script, the narrative is difficult to follow. A deeper insight into Fay herself – her mind rather than simply the facts of her life – would benefit the show. Is this a biographical play enhanced by creative direction and clever magic? Or is the use of trickery simply covering up a rather dull story? I’m still not sure.

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The Blurb

A bizarre and beautiful true story of one remarkable woman in a world of mad scientists, escapologists, fraudsters and thieves. This play incorporates magic and mind reading as life, death, belief and illusion entwine.

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