The Black Cat, Underbelly Cowgate, Review

Submitted by Jon Cross on Wed, 9 Aug '17 11.48am
Rating (out of 5)
Show info
LaPelle's Factory in association with Little Mighty and In Good Company
Edgar Allen Poe (original story)
Olwen Davies, Ollie Smith
Running time

Two actors grapple with a modern adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic horror story which they perform reluctantly with frequent interruptions and a playful disrespect for the writing.

This piece is at its best when the two performers are in character, bickering and sparking off each other, the man drinking and passive-aggressive, the woman girlish and defensive. Their timing is spot-on, their exchanges convincing.

Laid on top of this modern domestic drama are the performers’ own highly critical commentaries on the script the writer has given them in the adaptation of the original story. At this level too, they argue about the changes that have been made and which parts of the script need to be chopped, altered or hurried through.

Underneath all this, confined as it were to the cellar, is Poe’s original story which emerges from time to time in passages read out in the style of Vincent Price.

Is it perhaps all a little too arch, too knowing, with too many asides to the audience, especially if there is a little group of friends who laugh too easily and too loudly at the smallest scrap of humour?

The performers are certainly correct that the adaptation of the story is by no means an improvement on the original. Perhaps that is why they deliberately dissipate any dramatic tension with constant disruptions. Not a lot of horror remains.

This is a very playful piece, crisply performed, which calls to mind a cat toying with a ball of string with just the merest hint of menace in the eyes.

Underbelly’s dark, cavernous Big Belly is a perfect setting for a horror story, even one played for laughs. And who knows what might be hidden behind those ancient walls?

5 -20 August at 7.20pm (August 13 at 1.15pm