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BWW Review: NEVERMORE at Subiaco Arts Centre

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Gripping tale of Edgar Allen Poe performed by Grey Lantern Productions

BWW Review: NEVERMORE at Subiaco Arts Centre

The life of Edgar Allen Poe is the subject of much discussion and debate, and he continues to be a most fascinating character. Grey Lantern Productions put on NEVERMORE: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allen Poe giving a dark and stripped back retelling of the life of Edgar Allen Poe.

It is difficult to overstate the influence Edgar Allen Poe has on contemporary works. Arthur Conan Doyle cites his work as the foundation of detective fiction, whilst Jules Verne and H. G. Wells credit him with influencing science fiction, and Alfred Hitchcock claims an interest in Allen Poe's work steered him towards making suspense. Very little, however, is known about his life, and as such NEVERMORE combines fact, fiction, and drama to create a narrative of his life. Whilst the overall theme of the show is dark, and this is reflected in the staging and costumes, Grey Lantern Productions do not take this as given. There are periods of hope within the narrative and the mood noticeably shifts of the performance and delivery, whilst humour is thrown in at parts, occasionally to further lighten the mood whilst at other times to diffuse the tension that has built.

Director (and Grey Lantern founder) Lorna Mackie often works with black box style theatre, but rather than adapting the show for it, the themes and overtones in NEVERMORE are actually enhanced in this semi-staged format. The director and performers manage to perfectly convey the feelings present in each of the scenes mainly by performance, whilst the costumes (by Therese Cruise) and the dark makeup that evokes gloom and raven's wings (by Andrea Lim/Studio Ricecake) do a great deal for the show without changing as the show goes on. The changes that do occur are from minimal adjustments of the props, but more often with the lighting (directed and tied to the show by Lorna Mackie) and the music (directed by Maddison Moulin).

In the role of Edgar Allen Poe is Cal Silberstein, who portrays the role well. Poe experiences extended periods of despair throughout his short life and not only is the headspace the Poe is in shown by Silberstein, but the audience can also see how each tragedy in his life build up steadily place a greater burden on Poe. The audience is shown the grief Poe undergoes whilst also feeling his hope, despite the recurring theme of hopelessness throughout the show. Heartbreak and tragedy become routine as the narrative progresses, but Silberstein's performance is able to pick the audience up when needed.

BWW Review: NEVERMORE at Subiaco Arts Centre

The other characters in the show are played by a just six people; Simon Brett, Arianne Westcott-King, Daniel Burton, Charlotte Louise, Zac Bennett-McPhee, and Erin Craddock. Each performer spends time narrating the show, as well as each playing several characters covering a variety of contributions to Poe's life. They are family, lovers, friends, and enemies, seamlessly moving between the characters but ensuring the narrative can still be followed. The actors playing so many characters is in itself an important plot piece. However, for such a layered and dark storyline, it is actually easy to follow and get in to.

The narrative of NEVERMORE is dark by nature, and in fact heavy at many times, and yet the talented cast and crew from Grey Lantern make it entertaining. Indeed, for a show that ends in the death of the main character, the reception for the cast was particularly warm and loud, conveying just how much the show was enjoyed.

NEVERMORE: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allen Poe is at Subiaco Arts Centre until December 4. Tickets through The Perth Theatre Trust

Pictures thanks to Michael McAllan.


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