Edith in the Dark (Momentum Venues @ St Stephens, 5 – 30 Aug : 16.25 : 1hr 20 mins)

“A truly superb performance from Blue Merrick as the title character”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars

Edith in the Dark is perhaps one of the most curious adaptations at the Fringe this year, combining a selection of Edith Nesbit’s earlier, and much darker, works, with elements of her real life. From the pen of award-winning and respected playwright Philip Meeks I was expecting a well conceived piece, but could it bring the threads together to be a work of art in its own right?

The concept is very simple: Nesbit escapes to her attic (and study) during one of her husband’s parties. In the adjoining room lies an invalid girl, rescued by Nesbit from the street. A guest (Mr Guasto) joins her, proclaiming to be a fan of her work and to have snuck in having spied her earlier. They have a brief flirtation and Nesbit agrees to read aloud for him. They are interrupted by Nesbit’s maid, Biddy Thricefold, but the reading goes ahead, and soon we are sucked into the world of the ghostly stories.

The script is very natural, and flows well, capturing the mood and period very sympathetically. The twist at the end was certainly effective and well concealed, even if it did leave me a bit confused. The direction is subtle, although there were a couple of moments when Nesbit walked down stage to deliver lines straight forward that did jar from the otherwise very realistic style.

The actors are excellent throughout, playing multiple characters in the reading of the stories, but of special note is the truly superb performance from Blue Merrick as the title character. She enthralls with a commanding stage presence, and performs with enough light and shade to make Nesbit believable but without ever being overly theatrical.

The set and effects were also very impressive, with smoke and lighting used to give atmosphere, and the exposed and expansive wooden set giving a real sense of the bare attic room. Overall, it’s a very solid production, that’s been pulled off well.

However, despite the fact that this performance is an abridged version of the script, it does still feel quite lengthy, and there’s not quite enough drama to keep it completely engaging throughout. Perhaps with more characters, narrative development or interruptions it could have been something really quite spectacular. Still, definitely worth watching.

 

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Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 23 August)

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THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED