Edgar Allen Poe’s seminal poem, which charts the gradual descent into madness of a heartbroken lover compounded by the incessant repetitions of a talking bird, gives its name and themes to a newly devised piece by Bawsoot Theatre Company. Here, illusion and reality interweave to present the infected mind of a photographer in his red room as he fruitlessly strives to recreate an idealised single image of his lost love Lenore.
There can be absolutely no doubting the performers’ energetic commitment to their work
This production shows much creative potential, yet in performance it doesn’t quite reach that potential. The text itself is a fusion of prose and verse, in Poe’s own style, which serves to differentiate between the photographer’s internal and actual experiences. In terms of poetry, we hear a combination of the original narrative and new lines written by Emilie Robson and Jack Gemmell who also appear in the piece. The metric rhythms of the verse carry us along through the visions of the photographer as his battles with his imaginary demons become ever more violently physicalised.
There can be absolutely no doubting the performers’ energetic commitment to their work, yet it is this enthusiasm which at times gets in the way of effectively building up tension towards what is an undeniably climactic conclusion. The vehicle for drama in this piece is the mania of the photographer, and accordingly one might expect to see a rather more measured development than the frenzied pacing which permeates throughout. Vocally too, the photographer is left with nowhere to go as his angst is demonstrated by shouting from an early stage.
We do see some effective multi-roling in the structure of the piece as the two photography models become agents of torment in the protagonist’s mind. These character shifts are fluidly undertaken by Robson and Kirsten Rennie; their more understated performances anchor the production well. Furthermore, the figure of the eponymous ‘Raven’ is well embodied by Hannah Cumming whose focus never leaves the photographer – in fact her movements seem to spread to her quarry, such is her effect upon him.
Overall, the production could do with a little more polish and a slightly deepened consideration of certain artistic decisions. For instance, why does the photographer reach into the audience and touch the face of one spectator towards the end having otherwise maintained the fourth wall throughout? I would recommend that you see it, but, aside from some comment on today’s culture of ubiquitous photography, I’m unsure of what it currently offers that Poe’s original does not.