Zanetti Productions’ The Basement Tapes is a startling piece of theatre, compelling and surprising, throbbing with energy. The site-specific environment of the creepily named ‘Former Women’s Locker Room’, deep in the bowels of the Summerhall building, all clanking radiator pipes and low ceilings, enhances the rising tension, and we find ourselves utterly enthralled.
Stella Reid plays a girl who, after her grandmother’s death, is tasked with clearing out her home. We’re with her in the cluttered basement, resonant with memories, boxes everywhere. The girl is part way through her onerous assignment: some of the boxes are open, their contents strewn around the room. She’s clearly bored, dancing as she works, pausing to order pizza, trying on her grandma’s coat. She grapples with unfamiliar technology: calling her mum via a landline, because there’s no mobile signal here; intrigued by an old tape recorder and a bag full of cassettes.
From hereon in, the story revolves around those cassettes, those titular basement tapes. The eerie, disembodied voice of her dead grandmother weaves its way into the tale, taking us (and the girl) on a strange journey, with macabre revelations that really make the spine tingle.
The atmosphere is fraught, crackling like the electricity that intermittently cuts out, leaving us in darkness as black as the secrets that have been set free. Stella Reid’s performance is powerful and riveting; I realise, as I leave, that I have been holding my breath.
An exciting, innovative production from this award-winning New Zealand company, the show is deservedly sold out for much of its run. If you can, get hold of a ticket now while there are still a few available.