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BWW Reviews: ALL ABOUT POE AND HIS RETURN TO BATH, Baron's Court Theatre, November 8 2011

John Landis' celebrated video for Michael Jackson's Thriller is so deeply ingrained in our culture that it's impossible to hear Vincent Price's geriatric rap (you know, "Darkness falls across the land / the midnight hour is close at hand... ) without twitching a shoulder or two and stamping a foot.

At Baron's Court Theatre, deep in the cellar of the Curtain's Up pub, there's barely room for even that movement, as Price's mellifluous tones open Nick Pelas' All About Poe And His Return to Bath and the audience are welcomed to a world every bit as strange as that of Thriller.

Based on Poe's Masque of the Red Death, the play follows bibliophile Bentley and an assortment of odd hangers-on (themselves 21st century versions of Poe's 19th century unfortunates) who are locked in the library of author/dominatrix Roberta Fox, as the Red Death rages outside like Stephen King's Captain Trips from The Stand.

Bentley has a first edition of Edgar Allan Poe's Eureka and Ms Fox wants it - and what she wants, she usually gets. As the party picks up, there's a postmodern (poe-mo?) flourish or two, including the intervention of both the play's inspiration and its author, and there's plenty of dark humour about the nature of poetry, the artifice of bringing people together arbitrarily and, of course, master and servant relationships. Soon though, the dreadful denouement approaches - or does it?

With a largely youthful cast, performances are inevitably somewhat uneven, but old hand Nick Bayly as Bentley provides a solid centre and Andrea Aboagye as the maid looks beautiful and recites Poe beautifully before Ms Fox cracks the whip and reminds her of her place. Pelas' dark vision won't be to all tastes, but his reimagining of Poe's classic tale has a resonance in these difficult days and will appeal to plenty who buy into the Goth subculture, and to plenty who don't.  

All About Poe And His Return To Bath continues at Baron's Court Theatre until November 13.


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From This Author Gary Naylor