Before the lights go down and the show begins, a voiceover warns us to expect ‘scenes of extreme horror’ as this retelling of Edgar Allan Poe's gothic tale begins. Combining physical theatre and gothic horror, Sherborne Young People's Theatre have constructed an interesting idea, but I dare say that fans of physical theatre and/or horror will be equally disappointed with this production.
The four young actors all show talent and potential.
The physical theatre influence seems to be nothing more than vague mimes and half-hearted, stylised walks that are cringe-inducing to watch. As the four actors make creaking noises while walking around in the style of the robot dance, it is very unclear what these physical aspects are supposed to represent.
What doesn't help is that the poor performers look rather embarrassed as they do these movements. Physical theatre can be very effective indeed if it is used correctly, but adding clumsily-choreographed movements with little artistic incentive just makes the piece seem too stylised.
As for the ‘extreme horror,’ the director seems to have confused horror for slow monotonous dialogue delivered by wide-eyed actors with their head drooping at an angle. There really is no terror in this piece at all; the actors try to be creepy with long stares and silly voices, but any attempt at horror seems to be nothing more than loud noises and shouting.
Unfortunately, even the tense narrative of the story is lost with nonsensical scenes such as the plucking of a chicken or a bizarre cutaway to a scientific lecture. As well as looking unpolished and clumsy, the piece barely manages to convey the story in an engaging way.
I found myself feeling rather sorry for the four young actors, who all show talent and potential but are not given the means to really express themselves as performers. The only tragic aspect of this story is the hindrance of young talent by a production that fails to deliver on almost all fronts.