Marty Ross returns to the Fringe this year with a new theatrical storytelling experience. Using nothing but the power of his voice and a few small rags, Ross narrates the story of Elizabeth Bathory, the infamous 'Countess Dracula' of Hungary.
The passion behind the piece is very evident.
The stage is bare, apart from a single wooden chair, and the first thing we notice is Ross's ability to paint a picture with words. He describes images of imaginary doors, fireplaces, rotting wood and bloody stone basins, represented by nothing more than lights, cloth and a picture in our minds that brings the bare, black stage to life. It is his mastery of language that carries the show, and Ross easily shares his vision with us through good narrative description and captivating storytelling.
At times, what we see is a little confusing. It seems to be the case that Ross plays himself as the narrator, but there is little change in his voice or manner when he switches to different characters within the story. Eventually we do learn to keep up with him, but the start is so lyrical and poetic that is hard to tell when descriptions end and narration begins.
Ross's charisma and enthusiasm cannot be faltered. Throughout the story he never lets his energy slip, despite the cascade of sweat we can see upon him. It is this enthusiasm that captivates us and wills us to step into the gothic castle with Ross. However, as the piece nears the end, the pace does begin to lag a little and the ending feels drawn out. Following an impressive climax, we begin to expect the lights to come up and Ross to take his well deserved bow. Yet, we return to the Countess' cell with a final contemplative scene that slightly diminished the chilling climax of the story.
Ross's enthusiasm really carries the show and, without it, the narration would very easily slip into a dull monologue. However, it could be easy to mistake his enthusiasm for self indulgence as there are times when he seems to forget that we are there, and gets lost in his own story, leaving us behind. But the passion behind the piece is very evident.