Pros: Strong, demanding characters that presented two very interesting tales.
Cons: Performances felt predictable and elements of the production lacked adventure.
The Jack Studio Theatre was the best place to comfort those pre-election result nerves on the evening of June 8th. With such warm staff that run the theatre and the lovely pub that partners it, Jack Studio always provides some promising up and coming productions and companies. The Okai Collier Company’s production of an Edgar Allan Poe Double Bill was no exception. They presented The Masque of the Red Death, a dark tale of Prince Prospero and his hidden agenda, and The Fall of the House of Usher, a man battling his bride-to-be’s cursed family home.
The Masque of the Red Death definitely set up the atmosphere for the evening. If you enjoy a bit of haze, then this opening performance gave you just that; a bit too much, considering it is a black box theatre with no way for the haze to escape. Unfortunately, this meant that aspects of the opening scene were missed due to the lack of visibility, and it had a negative impact on the lighting arrangement. The opening performance was an intriguing and creepy tale, allowing the audience to engage in the macabre side of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic writing. Bold and strange characters partnered with stylised performances and movement sequences pulled The Masque of the Red Death together. Frustratingly, some scenes lacked depth from performances, which broke up relationships between characters and the flow between scenes. This made it hard to follow the play, and for the actors to sustain the atmosphere they were trying to create. Once the stage became clearer, the lighting successfully twisted and turned with the change in pace, and the eerie sounds and songs also allowed for a very dark atmosphere in the theatre.
After an interval, we were then introduced to the elaborate characters of The Fall of The House of Usher. The performers’ portrayal of this set of characters resonated a lot more with the audience in the second performance. The depth to the characters and the relationships between one another were a lot more invested and made this play a more intriguing experience to watch. Similarly to the first, the second of the evening’s bill had a very simplistic staging, yet The House of Usher provided a more aesthetically pleasing space to watch the characters inhabit. The costume seemed a lot more modern the second time around, yet definitely in keeping with the macabre style of the production. This performance absolutely allowed for more witty humour from the performers, a deeper sense of mystery and attention-demanding characters.
It will always be a challenge to achieve the true depths to the dark and mysterious writing of Edgar Allan Poe’s classics, and everyone who attempts these should be commended, especially The Okai Collier Company. The performers were totally invested in their performances, which made for a pleasant evening.
Adapted by: Simon James Collier (The Masque of the Red Death) and Adam Dechanel (The Fall of the House of Usher)
Director: Omar F. Okai (The Masque of the Red Death) and Maud Madlyn (The Fall of the House of Usher)
Producer: Simon James Collier
Box Office: 0333 666 3366
Booking Link: http://www.brockleyjack.co.uk/portfolio/edgar-allan-poe-double-feature/
Booking Until: 24th June, 2017