the red death and fall of the house of Usher

10 Jun


Adapted from the stories of Edgar Allan Poe

At the Brockley Jack Theatre


The Red Death involves Prince Prospero who, like his Shakespearean namesake gathers a group of people and locks them away from plague ridden civilisation persuading them that he is saving them from dying in a horrible, messy way as victims of the Red Death.  They all think they are having a lovely time dancing and being entertained, not knowing what Prospero’s evil plan is going to be. There is some interesting choreography by the director Omar F Okai but this is not an easy play to stage. There is no real drama until the very end so Simon James Collier in his adaptation keeps us interested with stories of the scandals of his guests, some with titles some with money – all wanting what is best for themselves. We get a glimpse of his mind when young man – Lord Usher tells of his interest in Christianity.

The second play about the House of Usher has much more dramatic content. Winthrop (James McClelland) is a young man who arrives at the House of Usher and meets the master of the house Roderick Usher (Zachary Elliott-Hatton). Winthrop is looking for Madeline (Nell Hardy) the girl who left him at the altar.  He has been searching for her and has tracked her down to this house. Roderick has imprisoned her in an upstairs room and the young suiter is constantly goaded by ghosts of previous members of the family all of whom have died young due to a curse put on the house of Usher. Madeline is destined to be one of them but he tries to take her away and save her from the curse.  This story was adapted by Adam Bechamel and directed by Maud Madlyn.

There is a very young cast who double up in both plays and they all work effectively, having absorbed well the atmosphere of melodrama, especially as the guests of Prospero and the lovely wafting ghosts who accompany Winthrop wherever he goes. Prince Prospero is played by the very elegant Cristinel Hogas who also plays one of the Usher ghosts.

This double bill is great fun and the lighting and sound effects are wonderfully creepy.

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