The brothers grim

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The Independent Culture
Edgar Allan Poe just won't lie down and die. The Victorian writer is regularly disinterred by film directors to ghost-write their horrific screenplays. His gothic stories have been dressed up as atmospheric art or splattered on to the screen in a lurid mess of ketchup and Ollie Reed. Whichever way you look at it, if you're looking for a spot of flesh-crawling suspense, Poe's your man. This filmic phenomenon has not escaped Forkbeard Fantasy, who have cunningly conflated such ideas in their stage show, The Fall of the House of Usherettes.

Brothers Tim and Chris Britton, who make up Forkbeard, have practised the art of surrealist theatre since the 1970s, finding fame for their absurd characters and wildly mechanical sets. Celebrating cinema's centenary and their own 21st anniversary, the new play promises to stump audiences once again with their brand of handcrafted lunacy. Splicing film and "live action", they enact the tale of an antique cinema, haunted by leaking vaults, shark-infested developing tanks and gruesomely genteel usherettes.

Their production dramatises the days of early cinema when Melies's trick films were imbued with vaudevillian theatricality. Jumping in and out of various characters, breaking into rhyming couplets and racing around a set described as "Heath Robinson meets Sixties assemblage", the company creates a maniacal fantasy world. If you fancy a trip to the flicks this weekend why not pay a visit to Forkbeard's empire cinema: no ordinary flea-pit but a Hammer House of Dada.

LIESE SPENCER

St Luke's Theatre, Exeter to Sat 10 Feb (01392 421111); then touring to end March, details (0117 9248141)

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