Steven Berkoff‘s stab at adapting Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” for the stage has been disinterred from the tomb where it assuredly belongs. The production responsible is Perse Players – the in-house theatre company of a high-achieving posh school from Cambridge – but this play was ruined for Tychy by a schoolboy error, and not one committed by the kids. Yes, I had paid almost ten pounds for a ticket to this show at the Space on Jeffrey Street and I could see fuck all. Perhaps I could see bits of the play – rather as one may watch a thunderstorm through a skylight – but without storeyed seating, I was consigned to the section of the audience that had lost this particular lottery.
The Space is something of a shambles. Only once the audience had bought their tickets, queued to enter the theatre, and packed themselves into their seats, did the stage manager finally reveal that this play actually contained several minutes of strobe lighting. Any epileptics in the house were welcomed with the news that, “you shouldn’t be here!,” but by now it would have been a formidable trial to submit to the embarrassment and inconvenience of extracting themselves from the theatre. The manager should have instead offered to throw a blanket over anybody having a seizure.
It would be unfair to review this play, as I have literally seen only a fraction of it, so Tychy will settle for reviewing the heads of the people sitting in the row in front.
The lady in the white blouse offered an audacious and enthralling shock of red hair, although it was thinning at the crown and Tychy spotted a couple of split ends. Her shoulders were bony and she was slightly vulture necked, which ultimately impaired this performance, although the blouse remained of high quality throughout. She presented a picture of considerable intensity, although there was no discernable crescendo nor climax.
The gentleman in the blue shirt had gelled hair and a mild sprinkling of dandruff. He delivered a head of great power, although it was essentially a block of unmoving meat, cast mostly in shadow.
Incidentally, after the play I was in the toilets and at the urinal I got chatting with a guy who had been sitting in the first row, albeit in that odd horn which runs behind the stage so that one can only see the play in profile. He was unimpressed with the performance, claiming that it owed more to “The Addams Family” than to Poe, with the same Addams eye for quirky detail but without the jokes. The cast apparently lunge about like zombies without any suburbs to trash. We agreed that Usher’s voice was not powerful enough, and that it made his screaming sound oddly like that of a toddler. We further thought that Madeline’s piercing party-piece scream should have been awarded an A-level in itself, but that it would have been wiser to use it only once. He suspected that a lot of the symbolism, such as treating Madeline’s body as a piece of paper, was simply meaningless, or else just decorative. And with that we zipped up our flies and fled.