amazingly audacious and inventive Catalyst Theatre from Canada offers
what amounts to a musical fantasia on the life and myth of Edgar Allan
Poe, and if it doesn't all work, the good parts are so much more
exciting than what a more cautious company could have produced that you
are willing to pay the price of the occasional missteps.
writer/composer/director Jonathan Christenson employ all the tools of
theatricality to tell their often askew tales - you may remember The
House Of Pootsie Plunket several years ago - and in this case use
rhymed narrative, songs, dance, mime, broad characterisations,
bizarrely cartoonish costumes and some surprisingly subtle touches to
bring alive what may or may not be the true story of the doom-ridden
Scott Shpeley plays Poe while the other six members of the cast play
Everyone Else and take turns narrating in speech and song. The story is
an almost comically dark one, and the point that it might almost be one
of Poe's macabre short stories is not missed.
good seems about to happen to Poe, an accident, enemy or reversal of
fortune appears on cue; and any time he begins to form an emotional
attachment to someone, you can count on a tubercular cough announcing
the impending end of that hope and an addition to the body count.
relentlessly perky narrators, the quirky characterisations, and the
sometimes quite excellent songs keep things moving forward,
particularly in the second half. (One of the production's weaknesses is
that the first act, which only gets Poe as far as age eight or so, is
slow moving, with mainly recitatif-style music whose drone risks being
hypnotic and even soporific.)
significantly after the interval, with a quite lovely song accompanying
Poe's doomed (of course) romance with Elmira Royster, the sequence
somehow made even sweeter by the fact that the lovers are the
nineteenth-century equivalents of modern teenage Goths. And a later
high-energy anthem in which Poe declares his determination to grab some
joy out of life would not be out of place in Sweeney Todd or Les
Poe, the rest of the multi-role-playing cast are deliberately
interchangeable, though Shannon Blanchet's sweetly twisted Elmira and
Beth Graham's sweetly dim Sissy Clemm (another doomed love) make strong
for all tastes - you have to be eager for risk-taking theatrical
ambition and imagination, and willing to accept the occasional stumble
along the way. If that's you, then this is very much your sort of thing.
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Review - Nevermore - Catalyst 2010