Horror - Gothic Tales and Dark Poetry

Sat 4th – Sun 26th August 2018


Sally Christmas

at 09:50 on 23rd Aug 2018



Part of the Free Fringe, Isabel Schmier’s Horror: Gothic Tales and Dark Poetry is an intriguing and captivating piece of spoken word theatre.

This is a performance that does what it says in the title. A one-woman show, Schmier has put together a fantastic and varied selection of poems and extracts, ranging from classics, like Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ and Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’, to some lesser known works you most likely haven't heard before. ‘The Russian One’, a Japanese piece set in 1920s Kyoto, was new to me, and stood out as particularly horrifying. One of the most interesting things about the show was the inclusion of pieces which aimed to capture smells, not by describing them, but by using words with sounds and shapes that evoke them. Recited in the original German, this was a fascinating concept, and an interesting experiment that worked well with the mood of the show. A few of these were used to set the tone before moving into other works, but it wasn't overdone, and added something unique to the performance.

Of course, this type of production lives or dies on the quality of its performer, and a series of poems and extracts all based around similar themes could easily become monotonous. However, Schmier was undeniably great. Her delivery was captivating, drawing us into the worlds of the literature and maintaining a clear and consistent atmosphere throughout. There was the occasional slip here and there, but these imperfections weren't particularly intrusive, and with one actor holding the stage with nothing but their voice, it would be harsh to hold this against her. The interludes and explanations between the pieces were a nice touch, providing the audience with a bit of context and giving the show a more personal feel. Overall, it was a very impressive performance.

The venue is also worth mentioning – held in the former vaults beneath the Banshee Labyrinth, which claims to be ‘Scotland’s most haunted pub’, the creepy room definitely adds to the vibe of the piece.

If you like poetry, the spoken word, or the downright spooky, this is something you want to see. With a range of well selected pieces brought to life by a fantastic performance, Horror: Gothic Tales and Dark poetry will not disappoint. And if you’re still on the fence – it’s free. You have nothing to lose, and a lot to gain.


Louis Harnett O'Meara

at 10:53 on 24th Aug 2018



In the dungeons of Banshee Labyrinth, ‘Scotland’s Most Haunted Pub’, we hear a series of literature’s most macabre tales and poetry. It’s the perfect setting for the Free Fringe show ‘Horror - Gothic Tales and Dark Poetry’, and Isabel Schmier fits the picture – high cheekbones and a wicked smile with a clipped German accent.

As though in a trance, Schmier relates to her audience the most vivid of Gothic tales and Dark Romantic poetry – Dr. John Seward’s journal from ‘Dracula’ describes a patient in a mental ward, R M Renfield. She peers intently into a minute empty space as she describes Renfield’s obsession with collecting flies. She plucks at the space, holding the imaginary fly up in the air between finger and thumb. Her speech and actions bring the scene to life.

Schmier’s ability to recall every word of every story and poem was quite startling, looking back – she had no books or prompts – although at the time it seemed completely natural. It was testament to her obsession with the genre, also evident in her fascinating selection of prose and poetry.

A few pieces were entirely new to me, such as Max Dauthendey’s poems, ‘Smell of the Forest Soil’ and ‘Smell of the Rain’. Schmier read these in the original German, and she described how they were intended to elicit the smell they were describing through the sound of the poem rather than the literal meanings of the words. Her rendition of Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s ‘The Rashomom’ had me taking a mental note of a modernist author I hadn’t heard of before. I’m definitely going to return to his writings.

Please bear in mind though, this addressed a literary audience – the performance itself is not as much the emphasis as the curation of different writings. She wasn’t hugely animated in her delivery, which was a shame. Often one of her arms was down by her side, and her body language didn’t command the room – but then, the expression on her face and her focus on each and every word certainly did.

Schmier’s ‘Horror’ is a gem. I’m happy I had the privilege of seeing such an obscure performance in the perfect setting, with readings so well suited to my taste. For any lovers of literature, this show is well worth a visit.


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