Sweet Grassmarket, Edinburgh – until 28 August 2016
Reviewer: Hugh Simpson
There is a delicate balance between information and entertainment, and between history and contemporary relevance, in Michael Daviot’s Nosferatu’s Shadow at Sweet Grassmarket.
It is a very clever subject for a play. So many people would recognise the image of the vampire’s twisted shadow on the wall as he climbs the stairs, from F. W. Murnau’s legendary 1922 movie – but hardly any would be able to tell you anything about the actor concerned, or even his name – Max Schreck.
So the ‘shadow’ is a metaphorical one as well. How is it that a celebrated performer who played 800 roles is only remembered for one film – and one that, for legal reasons, should not even have survived?
There is a danger in presenting the memoirs of a renowned actor, especially when in the form of direct address to the audience after their death. It could become too precious and stagey, but Daviot is far too savvy to fall into that trap. While there is an understandably odd tinge to a man who became best known for ‘uncanny’ roles, it is always at the service of the ply.
Daviot is well served by Robert Williamson’s direction, as a well structured tale unfolds at just the right pace. References to political and artistic events in Germany during Schreck’s life are cleverly interwoven, with just enough explanation to make things clear without labouring the point.
very fine acting
The references to Nosferatu – Daviot’s clever mimicking of that pose, the use of the film’s intertitles as dialogue – are similarly pitched just about right. But there is also Shakespeare, Moliere and cabaret singing in a versatile display.
Despite being thoroughly involving, it does not all quite work – a parable about religious tolerance, however clever and welcome, seems to have come from another play. But as a well thought out, entertaining and informative piece, with very fine acting, it gets a great deal right.
Running time: 1 hour 10 minutes (no interval)
Sweet Grassmarket (Venue 18), Apex Grassmarket Hotel, EH1 2HS
Thursday 4 – Sunday 28 August 2016
Daily at 9.35 pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/nosferatu-s-shadow
Company website: http://smoutuk.wixsite.com/michaeldaviot