Gayfield Creative Spaces, Edinburgh – Tue 22 – Sat 26 Nov 2016
Scary and well-thought out, Sophie Good’s adaptation of the short Victorian horror story Green Tea finds suitable resonances in contemporary Edinburgh.
The original is Sheridan Le Fanu’s tale of a young man who spots a monkey one day and finds that, when it follows him, he is the only person who can see it. A study in the psychotic, it plays with ideas of what we allow ourselves to see and what we reveal to our loved ones.
In Good’s clever updating for Blazing Hyena, she changes Le Fanu’s use of a diary as a vehicle to reveal her narrative. Joe Walsh’s already disturbed Andy is discovered pleading directly to the audience who, in this semi-immersive production, are some kind of gatekeepers between him and his partner James.
Andy, nervous and shaking with fear, appears convinced that his account of how he and James met – and James’ subsequent withdrawal and descent into some kind of inner turmoil – will convince us to allow him in to speak to his lover.
The story is twisted in with James’ own account of his meeting with the demonic monkey, and its taking over of his life. Calum Ferguson gives James a strong sense of inner destruction as, on the late bus back from his work as a researcher into genomics, Sands Stirling’s hairy, phlegm-speckled monkey looms out of the darkness, red-eyes first.
Structurally this is excellently conceived. However director Jack Elliot has not been as disciplined with his cast as he needs to be. The difficulty stems from the different time-frames. Ferguson and Walsh’s perpetual state of nervousness just doesn’t work in such scenes as James and Andy’s first meeting.
Calum Ferguson, Lara Wauchope and Joe Walsh. Photo Gilmour Digital.jpg
There’s a bit of looseness about the script, too. The basic geography of James’ critical bus journey doesn’t seem quite right and some of the dialogue, particularly early in James and Andy’s relationship, is just a bit too pat. But in its tight coiling of internal destruction as it builds to its climax, it is superbly done.
The company are not hugely helped by the very basic nature of the lighting in the found space. However, technical difficulties are used to advantage by both Sands Stirling as the monkey and Lara Wauchope who fills in with a range of passing characters. Both make great use of the space and proximity to the audience.
That this works as well as it does, is down to the company’s ability to enter a disturbing space between reality and impression. While the hook on the end of the twist is sharply barbed, hooking the imagination and leaving it trapped as it goes out into the darkness.
Running time 50 minutes (no interval)
Gayfield Creative Spaces, 11 Gayfield Square, EH1 3NT.
Tuesday 22 – Saturday 26 November 2016
Tickets and details: www.eventbrite.com
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Blazing Hyenawebsite: www.blazinghyena.com
Calum Ferguson, Joe Walsh, Sands Stirling, Lara Wauchope, Sophie Good, Jack Elliot