Saturday, November 19, 2011; 10:11 AM – by Gary Naylor
Poe:Macabre Resurrections is an extraordinary night’s entertainment quite unlike anything else in London, probably unlike anything anywhere. Once you find St Mary’s Old Church Stoke Newington (it’s opposite the much larger new church) you are ushered to a pew in the gloomy chill and left to stare at the pale light of the staiNed Glass window beyond. You are in the oldest Protestant church in the country, and the 400+ years of religious observance resonates through the space. A preacher ascends to the pulpit and you realise that there’s no escape now…
Second Skin Theatre’s Artistic Director Andy McQuade’s has pulled together a group of writers and actors who use some of Poe’s most celebrated works as the jumping off point for their own febrile re-imagining of his gruesome tales for these gruesome times. Hence the victim of the Pit and the Pendulum is an Afghan under interrogation; Premature Burial concerns a soldier in the same conflict; the Masque of the Red Death is a quasi-Nazi rallying call; and The Black Cat is a deranged mother’s tale of jealousy and depression.
There are some very fine performances from the ensemble: Stephen Connery Brown is devilishly charming as the fallen preacher and David Hugh recalls Klaus Kinski’s Nosferatu as The Raven; Michael Amariah is funny and fearful as the soldier doing his country’s bidding; and Mia Zara is frighteningly convincing as the cat-fearing mother. Undoubted star of the evening is the old church itself, the potential of which is fully exploited in the production’s promenade format. Lighting team Sarah Grogan and Anna Sbokou find eerie shadows that complement Poe’s metaphorical darkness unsettlingly; the audience’s tight corralling around the font mirrors the incarceration of Priyank Morjaria’s interrogated prisoner; and the using of the ancient cemetery that surrounds the church for Premature Burial is obvious, but spectacularly realised.
See it – and be scared, surprised and shocked!
Poe: Macabre Resurrections continues until 4 December 2011