It was with some trepidation that I entered the auditorium to see Unburied, presented by Hermetic Arts – not least because their website states, amongst other things, that 'Hermetic Arts is committed to protecting its audience from any entities that may be manifested.' WTF?
An extremely clever musing on our desire to know.
However, the sight of a stage containing a laptop and projector, a desk and some microphones offered temporary reassurance that we were safe from the realm of superstition. Enter folk horror enthusiast Carrie Marx, who addresses the audience in what we are told is a recording of the last in a series of podcasts about a supposedly 'lost' HTV children’s TV series from the 1970s. In the vein of Children of the Stones and The Owl Service, the lost series was called Unburied.
The show itself is a thoroughly gripping multi-media presentation in which Carrie recounts in gently humorous tones her love of 1970s children’s TV and her search for information about the writer of the lost series. However, in so doing she uncovers a mysterious recurring meme common to all her research targets, and things begin to take a darker turn. It turns out that the web can be scary after all. This is horror for the 21st century.
Unburied is an extremely clever musing on our desire to know, to gain knowledge, delivered as a faux PowerPoint presentation. We have to fill the gaps in our memory or knowledge with stories, conspiracy theories, or false nostalgia for a time that never was. In the digital age of instant information, we simply cannot tolerate an ellipsis. 'Can you have nostalgia without denial?' Carrie asks. It seems that urban myth, folklore, and even political thinking are predicated on what has been 'lost.'
The script is by turns lyrical, prosaic, funny, and thought-provoking as Carrie shifts between three modes of address: the lyrical podcaster, the public presenter, and the confessional, increasingly insecure Carrie who doubts the meaning and value of her work in a series of apparently artless asides between recording takes. Playing intelligently with the trope of Blair Witch style truth claiming, the asides belie the cleverness of this skilfully crafted metatheatrical performance. Nothing is what it seems, and no detail is included by accident. Carrie’s reflexive story about the gaps in her research contains ellipses of its own; there are cycles, series, and re-tellings. Too late she joins the dots and discovers what this really means. 'We are all storytellers,' she tells at the climax of the play. But at what price? Highly recommended.