EFR - Reviews of The House of Edgar

The House of Edgar

Fri 5th – Sat 27th August 2016

reviews

Caragh Aylett

at 18:43 on 10th Aug 2016

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From Argosy Theatre Compant comes this haunting and harrowing musical theatre piece, exploring life after the death of Edgar Allan Poe. The youth production quickly invites the audience into Poe’s world and transports them to his creepy abode.

The piece portrays ideas of love, loss and longing. Through the depiction of Poe’s classic works the audience is moved through time periods and diverse settings, swiftly and beautifully. The love that is encapsulated in the tale between Annabel Lee (Beth Cowley) and her lover (Fergus Church) leads to an incredible duet which is coupled with the following death of Annabel and the heartbreak of the lover. While this section leads to some wonderful singing, the chemistry between them is slightly unconvincing and for a moment it is clear that they are not a professional company.

In contrast, the complexity of the relationship between Rufus Griswold (Eoin McAndrew), Virginia (Amy Lotherington) and Poe (Lucas Bailey), leaves no doubts about their acting ability. Indeed, it feels entirely professional. Poe’s heartbreak over the death of Virginia and his joy at the possibility of eternity together is coupled with Rufus’ eternal longing for her and Poe’s shock – "you loved her, didn’t you?". The piece flits between these ideas of love and longing wonderfully and the audience’s investment in the tale is evident by the teary eyes when the lights come up.

Of particular note is the astounding performance by Ben Philipp, as the madman. His ability to truly embody the character and create a disturbing stage picture is the work of an incredible actor. Equally, the choreography of Emily Lafoy as the Raven was beautiful, subtle and elegant. The use of dance really adds to this performance.

It would be impossible to review this performance without touching upon the incredible work by both the sound and technical team. As the audience take their seats the underscoring develops the tone of the entire performance. Throughout, the incredibly talented trio of musicians dictate the mood of the performance and tie together each scene, giving the piece impeccable fluidity. This fluidity was contributed to by the technical team who left me consistently impressed by the precision in the lighting and its ability to construct the whole performance.

'The House of Edgar' is beautifully underscored and wonderfully acted. It is truly unmissable.

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Ed Grimble

at 22:35 on 10th Aug 2016

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Every now and again, a show comes together to succeed so holistically as to create a theatrical spectacle that one cannot help but recommend incessantly to anyone whose ear can be bent. This is very much the case with ‘The House of Edgar’, the debut show from Exeter based group The Argosy Theatre Company. The darkest part of my skepticism still suspects them of fibbing about this being their first show together. ‘The House of Edgar’ is a stunning piece.

Edgar Allan Poe dies mysteriously in 1849, in Baltimore. Poet, anthologist, and rival Rufus Griswold meets with malleable lawyer Mr. Price at the house of the late Poe- intent on acquiring keys and settling into a large wing chair. Even in the house of Edgar, asserts Griswold, there is no such thing as ghosts. What follows is an irritating short hour in which the audience is plunged into the manic and chilling mind of Edgar Allan Poe. By the half-way mark the plot is complex; it ducks and weaves among multiple framing narratives as fiction, metafiction, and sensory perception bleed into one another. It is a challenging play, especially to those unfamiliar with Poe’s work, but the fact that it does not stall in exposition and conspicuous signposting is a credit to the conviction of its writer Thomas F. Arnold.

Isolating certain members of this stellar cast for laudation borders on the totally arbitrary. In her portrayal of the infamous Raven atop Poe’s chamber door, Emily Lafoy brings a grace, elegance, and the perfect hint of uncanny menace. At the other end of the spectrum stands, frets, howls Ben Philipp’s Madman from Poe’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’. He dominates the stage, a frightening figure, all wild, mascara-ed eyes and bared teeth. However, the show owes much of its success to the brilliance of Eoin McAndrew as poet and more or less self-appointed executor to Poe's estate. McAndrew gives a performance at once suave, hubristic, and darkly Machiavellian. He dominates the stage effortlessly.

This is not to say that the play is not without its faults. Musical theatre almost laways brings with it an insurmountable challenge of demanding that cast members act, sing, and dance to high standards. There are slip ups: reactions and onstage chemistry is left just shy of ideal, or notes here and there go a little astray. However, there is something truly exciting about watching ‘The House of Edgar’ which means that these mistakes are easily ignored, and I think it is the strange but exhilarating sensation of being able to envisage this play, staged in a small, sparse black box theatre space, on a huge scale. This piece of theatre demands, and deserves, the opportunity to fulfil its spectacular potential.

Both a knockout piece of musical theatre and an erudite and respectful homage to Poe’s oeuvre, ‘The House of Edgar’ is the preparatory sketches to a masterpiece. I shall remember it evermore.

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Comments

Robin McGregor; 11th Aug 2016; 16:59:45

Completely agree. An astounding performance from a very talented troupe.

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