Some actors just look born for a role. That’s certainly true for Simon Shaw as he plays Edward in Under The Floorboards. His skinny frame, long boney fingers and gaunt facial features scream out mass murderer the moment you walk in and find him kneeling behind a wooden chest strumming those boney fingers as if impatient to begin killing us all. It is amazing half the audience don’t turn around and run away screaming.
Edward is Ed Gein, a real-life mass murderer and apparently inspiration for Psycho’s Norman Bates. The influence is obvious early on as you realise his mother plays an important part in his life. So much so that he decides to dig up her body so he can still have her looking after him.
Shaw doesn’t waste time explaining too much, rather spending his time getting stranger and more disturbing. There just isn’t time for long plot development! That’s not to say there isn’t a narrative here, it’s just difficult to keep track of what is real, what is imagination and what is simply Edward’s madness taking over. It’s this madness that dominates, his behaviour becoming more and more disturbing, forcing you to watch and wonder just what is going on deep down in his mind. Over 50 minutes Shaw goes through the range, from childlike adulation of his mother to deranged lunatic going on a killing spree, all to get his mother’s praise. It’s all compelling, if slightly strange, and certainly extremely unnerving piece of viewing.
Shaw absolutely lives the character. Even at the end as he takes the well deserved applause, he refuses to step out of his characters skin (quite literally), singing to himself in his childlike way. The song he is singing is “He’s got the whole world in his hands”, except the last lyrics I hear as I depart are “he’s got chainsaws and hammers in his hands”. Correct me if I’m wrong but I really don’t recall those being part of the original song. I didn’t hand around to check though, just in case…
Written, directed and produced by: Simon Shaw
Booking link: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/under-the-floorboards
Booking until: 13 August 2019