Edith in the Dark

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23/08/15

Momentum @ St Stephens, Stockbridge, Edinburgh

I was looking forward to seeing this play. I loved E. Nesbit’s books when I was a child (although, even at eight years old, I used to laugh at their over-privileged world-view – expecting readers to identify with a family whose idea of poverty means only being able to afford the one servant to do all the cooking and cleaning), and was intrigued to learn that she had also written a collection of ghost stories for adults. The play’s premise is strong: Edith meets a fan, and reads some of these stories to him, allowing us some insight into the author’s world, as well as bringing the ghostly tales to life.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work here. We’re told that the stories are dark and horrifying, but then they are played for laughs; the tone is so muddled it becomes incoherent. It’s not funny enough to work as a comedy, and it’s not frightening at all. Playwright Philip Meeks acknowledges a debt to the old Amicus horror films (“They’re schlocky and almost camp…”) and that’s clearly the angle director Keith Hukin is aiming for here, but he doesn’t really pull it off. It all ends up seeming just a little bit silly, which is a shame, because it could have been so good.

Blue Merrick, as Edith, is clearly a talented actor, and she manages to hold the piece to some extent. But she’s wasted on this material, and her fellow actors don’t fare as well in their supporting roles. It’s dispiriting stuff: four people walk out half way through the piece, and I can’t say I blame them. It’s a rare sunny day in Edinburgh, and there are far better places to be than this.

2 stars

Susan Singfield and Philip Caveney

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