Nevermore, Barbican Theatre, London
Thursday 08 July 2010
Once upon a mid-week weary, in the Barbican so dreary, while I nodded, nearly napping, came there actors, vaguely tapping, gently rapping, on my semi-conscious door. Edgar Allan Poe's the subject of their mock heroic mumming, all in words and gentle strumming, and their title's Nevermore.
Alas, the Catalyst Theatre never attempt a parody as weak as this in their drab recounting of Poe's life among the ladies he loved, the booze he drank and the rivalry he forged with that lying reprobate, Rufus Griswold, his editor and peeved critic.
Instead, they present a sort of commedia dell'arte charade, sunk by its own pre-recorded soundtrack and therefore unable to achieve the wished-for theatrical synthesis of Tim Burton meets the Tiger Lillies. The spooky melodrama and gothic effects are restricted to a bad sound design and acting by the seven-strong cast as dead as a dodo.
We meet Poe's actor parents, then his unkind stepfather, his lost love Elmira, his siblings, who prance about like Humpty Dumpty and Violet Elizabeth Bott, and the teenaged cousin with whom he became tragically infatuated. The characters materialise behind a flat arrangement of screens, along with a few animal heads and some night-time silhouettes that are as scary as the Teletubbies.
Poe's not really been well served in the theatre since Steven Berkoff's startling early assault on The Fall of the House of Usher. Punchdrunk's recent Masque of the Red Death was OK as an installation but pitiful in its acting and narrative mutilations.
The Catalyst approach is to present Poe pure, with no squelchy gothicism or fanatical bravura; the substitute of cosy, modish mimetics is a poor one. So I peered into the darkness, doubting, dreaming, is this Poe-pourri for real? Then I woke, disturbed and lonely, and I ran out, quietly screaming, not to panic, just to feel.
To 10 July (0845 120 7511)
Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Katie Hopkins gives rare glimpse of sensitive side with heartfelt open letter to her children penned in case she dies from epilepsy
- 2 Rihanna's Met Gala dress took one Chinese woman 2 years to make, was reduced to omelette meme in 2 seconds
- 3 Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to replace Jeremy Clarkson and co
- 4 Frankie Boyle on Scottish independence: 'In the Interests of Unity, F**k Off'
- 5 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
Penny Dreadful, series 2 episode 1, review: It is still gloriously silly
Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to replace Jeremy Clarkson and co
Eurovision 2015: What date and time is the song contest and who are the favourites to win?
How the Other Half Eat, Channel 4 - TV review: Swapping food trolleys shows how food and class are closely connected
Noel Gallagher 'cannot wait' to hear Oasis-inspired One Direction album but rants about 'pointless' Tidal and Spotify
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils