EFR - Reviews of How to Talk to the Dead

How to Talk to the Dead

Sat 2nd – Sat 23rd August 2014

reviews

Freya Judd

at 09:52 on 15th Aug 2014

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Although the preview promises ‘levitating tables, ectoplasm manifestation and spirit communication’, the premise of How to Talk to the Dead sounds slightly dubious. Happily, it is much more enjoyable than expected, and I learnt something along the way as well.

How to Talk to the Dead was based at George on the Bridge, which is one of the more low-budget locations at the Fringe. The light wasn’t working, and generally the room we all filed into had a slightly dejected atmosphere. I wasn’t optimistic.

Luckily the arrival of Ash Pryce, curator of the whole evening, turned everything on its head. He gave a witty and engaging patter throughout the whole performance, which turned out to be less a money-spinning hoax, and more a surprisingly informative rattle through the birth of spiritualism, and the development of techniques used by mediums in order to dupe willing participants. As I knew absolutely nothing about spiritualism, the whole thing proved to be rather fascinating. Who knew that mediums bringing up ectoplasm in front of an agog audience were actually just vomiting up some cheesecloth they’d wolfed down earlier? Not me.

Interspersed throughout the slideshow were demonstrations. I allowed myself to be hauled up on stage in order to try the Ouija board. I can honestly say that I didn’t move the disc around the board, although I suspect one of the other volunteers did. Either way, it was very entertaining.

Unlike some shows I’ve seen at Edinburgh, everyone in the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves, and not a single person walked out. Although the whole thing was slightly shabby, it was a very entertaining and interesting evening which lasted for just the right amount of time. And it was free. So if you’re on the George IV Bridge at around twenty past ten this evening, pop into George on the Bridge to wonder at the city’s skill in fashioning venues, and to be gently spooked.

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Ciaran Stordy

at 11:25 on 15th Aug 2014

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This was supposed to be a venture into the freaky world beyond the grave. It sold itself as an otherworldly experience but was definitely more comedy than anything else. It promised paranormal exhibition but instead delivered a debunking of the paranormal. Ash Pryce was the disciple of spiritualism cynical of its ways and eager to show his audience the fraudulence of Ouija Boards, levitating chairs and ghost photos.

Pryce is clearly enthusiastic about the paranormal but his show did not really fit its own bill. The little magic involved was restricted to paltry card tricks of the sort used by magicians at children’s birthday parties. Only a tiny amount of ectoplasm was used though he had promised on his flyer to mess the room up with it. A dead man was communicated with via Ouija Board only to have the device discredited by Pryce himself who proceeded to explain how it all worked. He also mercilessly exposed celebrated paranormal curiosities as scams. It would have been better for him to preserve at least some mystery in the show!

Nevertheless, there was an educational value that could be appreciated all the more because of his infectious enthusiasm. There was much to learn as he took us through the ins and outs of talking to the dead, and these became interesting through the medium of his zeal. The audience seemed genuinely moved by what they saw.

What’s more, the funniness of his show made up for a lack of spectacular phenomena; it was interactive, and when he made use of audience members to carry out particular tricks or exercises he engaged in hilarious exchanges with them. Soon the performance deviated from explanations of historical contact with the dead, apparently traced back to 19th century New York state, and entered the realm of stand-up and improv. The result was a slight falling short of his original intention, clairvoyance, redeemed by an unsuspected success, humour!

Ash Pryce is a naturally funny guy and won’t allow his audience to be bored. His show How to Talk to the Dead, however, is not more than a sort of lecture on spiritualism complemented by juvenile magic tricks, though all carried on a current of laughs.

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