Thursday, November 22, 2007

Masque of the Red Death - Battersea Arts Centre

The Masque of the Red Death is one of the hottest tickets in London theatre, with its complete run now sold out (although there are rumours of an extension). Following the spectacular success of Faust (which I unfortunately never got round to seeing) this is not surprising, but does it live up to the hype? Well its certainly not a show for those wedded to conventional theatre, nor claustrophobics, the unadventurous or people scared of the dark. But if you aren't scared by the idea of wandering around semi dark corridors, trying to pick up fragments of overlapping stories as they flit by you are in for treat.

Masked and left to wander alone and silently around the four floors of a BAC transformed into a dystopian vision of forests, opium dens, crypts and bedrooms (lots of bedrooms) you stumble across scenes from four of Edgar Allen Poe's dark short stories. It becomes almost game of hide and seek as you follow the actors as they move (sometimes run) from room to room, eavesdropping on whispered conversations, spying on fights and wedding nights. It’s a deeply physical show, often more ballet than the theatre that is more my comfort zone. But even a dancephobe like me can't help but feel their pulse quicken by the sight of such beautiful movement only inches from your mask. For those with more conventional tastes, or in need of a breather, head to palais royal, where one can take off your mask, relax with a drink and enjoy a string of music hall acts.

Never having read any Poe, and not being able to follow any one story from beginning to end I must admit to not knowing what the hell was going on for most of the time, but I didn't care a jot. One of the joys of this show is falling out into the night discussing with friends all that you have seen, and realising that it was only a fraction of the whole.

We are planning to go back when more tickets are announced to try and track down more of what we missed, come and join us.

PS for those already planning to go the West End Whingers provide an invaluable guide to getting the most out of the night.

1 Comments:

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