Pros: A well-written and performed one-person show with great puppetry.
Cons: The story was slow to develop and some scene transitions need development.
One-person shows are extremely hard to create and perform effectively. It’s easy for them to be too long, too boring, too bizarre, too indulgent or too lots of other things. Greywing House uses poetic writing and language, puppetry and movement to craft a narrative that gradually exposes the otherworldly realities of coastal Greywing House and its proprietor, Miss Amelia. The audience are the guests staying at this B&B (which doesn’t offer breakfast because it’s too hard for Miss Amelia to keep track of the time) in the fictional coastal village of Cradlehead. There isn’t much to do in Cradlehead, but the local residents and ghostly legends make it unlike any other seaside destination.
Miss Amelia is the epitome of polite restraint, akin to a 1950’s housewife. She seems quite innocent, but with a hint a melancholic nostalgia. She is warm and friendly, though this gradually deteriorates into desperation and madness. Mary Beth Morossa, the creator of the show, plays her with detail and sensitivity.
The play mostly consists of lengthy monologues where we learn about Miss Amelia’s unfortunate family history. Things are distinctly not right in Cradlehead, particularly her elderly lodger upstairs, the resident child ghost Evelyn, and the creature in the sea that caused her father-in-law’s and husband’s deaths. Most captivating are two tales told through puppetry. The first is of a new bride who falls inside the large oak tree, hanging herself with her wedding lace. Morossa creates the bride puppet by knotting a long lace doily that had been draped over an armchair. The second is of the little ghost girl Evelyn and her human friend Lucy, told through shadow puppetry using a reading lamp and desk blotter. These are the most visual aspects of the show and excellent examples of storytelling. Morossa also uses video and movement sequences to show Amelia’s sleepwalking tendencies. While these devices serve to break up the monologues nicely, they aren’t as effective as the puppetry. Also, there are lengthy blackouts to indicate time passing, which give the audience nothing to experience and come across as if the creative team ran out of ideas. Of the media used in the production, I felt video sequences would have been more effective than the blackouts.
Morossa has an obvious gift for writing. She uses vivid imagery and poetry to draw in the audience. She tells the story clearly and with an effective narrative structure. There are moments of surprise and ambiguity that leave the audience questioning what is real and what is the product of madness. However, it is slow to develop, and while the story is interesting, it could have been shorter. It started to feel long about 20 minutes before it ended, even though there was the surprising climax of Amelia’s attempt to silence the creature that torments her.
This is a one-person show that is not without potential but still needs development. Having debuted at the London Horror Festival last year, its creepiness works any time of year and I could imagine it in the programme of numerous fringe festivals.
Author: Mary Beth Morossa
Directors: Shelagh Dennis and Teddy Lamb
Puppetry Direction: Kim Scopes
Booking Until: now closed