The Hope Theatre
As much as I am loving Camden Fringe, I’m suffering burnout, having read nearly every press release received. Imagine my glee then when Liam Webber’s Crone press release dropped into an overflowing inbox, offering a show that appeared completely different from anything else at this year’s gloriously diverse festival.
Crone is, well, an old crone. She (a remarkably dressed Webber, complete with disturbingly bulging eyes) enters, back stooped, checking lamps and smoothing down the tablecloth before a word is uttered. There are 1970s medium vibes emanating from the set: because Crone is here to help us communicate with the spirits and read a few fortunes. This is not your typical medium who will contact your long dead granny or ask if anyone has lost a ‘Dave’ (well actually she does tell us David is here but that’s something else entirely). No, Crone is going to guide us with her spirit Clive, who is safely imprisoned within her transistor radio – another 1970s relic.
The tone is set almost before the first sentence is completed, leaving us laughing at the absurdity of it all. She tells us about Clive and of her journey from hell’s mouth (or Canary Wharf as we might better know it). And if that sounds corny, be prepared for lots more. If any dads are in the audience, you know they are jotting these gags down for future use. However, corny or not (no debate, they are corny) they work in this strange and bizarre environment Webber has created.
But an hour of such gags would become painful, however skilfully delivered. Instead, we’re asked if we have any objects to give up in return for telling our fortunes. Thankfully many have come prepared – this show could quickly die with an uncooperative audience. One excited participant duly selected, it’s to the table for some spirit communications. If I have one complaint it’s that visibility is limited here (small objects, darkened room), so if this show were to be worked upon, a simple camera with overhead projection could help? That aside, it’s here that Webber really demonstrates the strength of the show, because you cannot ad lib this well without meticulous preparation. Especially when the first object offered by the audience is a lemon with an eyeball in it (I did say the audience had come prepared). Webber takes it in his stride though, delivering gags aplenty around it. This is just the first of three readings, all taking us in rather different directions, and with things slowly going astray as Clive seeks release from his radio. Yes, there is a looming dread of whether we’re going to leave in one piece come the end.
A lovely nod must go to Daniel Potts, whose sound design helps support Webber’s world – especially when the show is different every performance – keeping him on his toes. There is an eeriness in the white noise static, complete with faraway voices of those lost somewhere between worlds. Potts is also called upon (terrible spoiler alert time) to act as the voice of Clive during some of those ad lib moments. Amusingly it feels at times as if Webber deliberately tries to put Potts off with his demands of Clive! There is clearly a strong working relationship at play here.
The show is wonderfully brought to a close with Crone leading us into some closed-eye meditation. Except things go terribly wrong, as we can tell from her panicked voice urging us not to look around. It’s a strong close to a rather unique show that really must be seen to be believed. Although not believed too much, this is not meant to be taken at all seriously. Is it?
Written by: Liam Webber and Daniel Potts
Sound design by: Daniel Potts
Crone played at The Hope Theatre as part of Camden Fringe 2022. It has now completed its current run.
Crone next appears as part of GrimFest at Old Red Lion Theatre on 30 October 2022, tickets and information here.