EFR - Reviews of Fear Itself

Fear Itself

Fri 3rd – Sat 18th August 2018

reviews

Katherine Knight

at 09:15 on 6th Aug 2018

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Fear can be dispelled, as long as you rationalise it. At least, that’s what Dr Greenwood says. I appreciate being given this advice at the start of the show, because by the end I’m pretty sure I’ve thoroughly used it. I potentially require some new advice from a more reliable source.

The show markets itself as a self-help guide in the form of a TED talk, although the PowerPoint style-presentation gave me some unpleasant secondary school flashbacks. That feeling is assisted by the expert help of ‘Dan’, a wordless techie (and Greenwood’s ex-husband) who fumbles through the slides and lighting cues with carefully manufactured precision. It’s entertaining to watch him in some scenes just to see how he reacts to the barbs being thrown at him on stage, an inclusive feeling aided by the small theatre space.

But centre stage is the doctor herself. Her style of descriptive storytelling is engaging, even when you instinctively know that’s not all the show has in store – Amelia and Dan’s love story, sweet though it is, hardly counts as a psychological horror, but still feels pleasantly watchable. It also gives a much-needed dose of respite. Where other shows might come in with a jump scare from the start, ‘Fear Itself’ is less concerned with appearing edgy than it is with feeling genuine. They’re not afraid to make the occasional wisecrack or incorporate a bit of camp audience interaction to make the whole thing enjoyable to watch, rather than torturous. Importantly, the quality is high enough that even those who consider themselves immune to the horror genre won’t come away feeling dissatisfied.

By the end, even with a reviewer’s eye, I found myself second-guessing what I had seen. And with an increasingly cynical audience, that’s something incredibly hard to achieve. The show leads you in one direction and comes to a natural end; it offers the compulsory pre-show warnings, but subverts your expectations once again; it knows what you’re going to guess, and then actively works against that. Someone with a less nervous disposition (and who perhaps isn’t personally targeted in a brief but terrifying moment) will probably see it coming and manage to hold themselves together – the signs are there, inevitably, despite some impressive damage control – but ‘Fear Itself’ works best when it knows you’ve seen those signs and still convinces you they just don’t matter. Danse Macabre Productions poses this question: you’ve just been taught how to rationalise your fear. Will you act upon it?

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Claire Louise Richardson

at 10:23 on 6th Aug 2018

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‘Do you want to rid your life of fear?’ is the question that psychotherapist Dr. Amelia Greenwood asks, claiming that in the next 50 minutes she will teach us to realise and confront our fears. Danse Macabre Productions are a theatre company who portray horror and fantasy through comedy, so ‘Fear Itself’ is not one for the kids. Greenwood presents a TED inspired lecture discussing fear, which is autobiographical rather than instructive, and has a striking metatheatrical conclusion blurring a line between what Greenwood has described and what the audience has experienced. I would say that I experienced neither a realisation nor a confrontation; instead some light comedy with a burst of horror to conclude.

The show does not really focus on the intricacies and science of fear, as Greenwood implies that we would. Instead, it diverges to discuss her personal life, which is nevertheless very entertaining, in this one woman show. There are moments when lines are rushed, particularly in the opening ten minutes, but later, as we move from the comedy to the horror, the performance becomes slick and convincing. The ‘Forced Audience Participation’ is slightly wooden, but the storytelling is convincing and compelling, and the creepy, rasping voiceover terrifying.

I loved the premise and wanted to learn more than we did about the psychology of fear; such as how most common fears stem from a deeper fear of pain or death, and how when confronting a fear we can ‘no longer fear, but pity’ – as with Greenwood and her childhood demon Mr Suggs. The only confrontation of my own fears that I experienced was to have to shout one aloud. In our audience there was everything from clowns, to Scousers, to escalators. While I enjoyed the plot twist, and I could relate to Greenwood’s twittering anecdotes, I would have liked to see less of the autobiographical content, and more of her study. This the simultaneous collision of a broken romance, a TED talk and a horror story, but it is a satisfyingly unexpected and eclectic twist of genre.

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