Young Pleasance are always one of the hottest tickets at the Edinburgh Fringe and this year is no different. If last year’s Alice Unhinged, a wonderfully psychedelic reworking of Lewis Carroll’s classic tale, was a dizzying thrill ride, then this year’s offering will chill you to the bone.
‘when the true chills came, they delivered’
Taking its cue from a number of disparate gothic sources, with Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw and Guillermo del Toro’s recent film Crimson Peak springing most vividly to mind, Curse of Cranholme Abbey riffs brilliantly on the classic haunted house format. It’s worth noting that the costume, lighting and, particularly, sound design are impeccable and perfectly create a level of foreboding which is extremely difficult to capture in horror-based theatre. A number of musical swells and abrupt halts actually provoked jumps in the audience and the use of Glenn Miller’s classic war-time standard, ‘In The Mood’, for a raucous dance scene gave me genuine goosebumps.
The show also played with time brilliantly, being played across three different time periods of 1872, 1942 and 2013. The attention to detail in each was sublime, with each feeling distinctive, not only through the gorgeous costumes, but in the way each actor held themselves and spoke, making the period costume drama, stiff-upper lip war-time and contemporary horror moods come to life. Standout performances included Clara Morel and Toto Bruin in the modern section, as a pair of fashion-obsessed media types who were wonderfully silly and provided a good deal of laughter, which is always integral to the success of something rooted in horror tropes. Heather Milsted was also hauntingly brilliant as a character who bled across the timelines, as the various settings began to disturbingly converge. Freddie Maher in the war-time section was the true embodiment of a wing commander, while I’d be very surprised if Pearl Salamon White isn’t coming to a costume drama near you soon on the evidence of her performance as the original haunted lady of the house. The list could go on.
The show relied heavily on the power of suggestion, which is always far more satisfying than attempting outright gore onstage, but when the true chills came, they delivered, with one section involving a scream into a backlit piece of cloth likely to be the most disturbing image I’ll see all Fringe. Oh, and the amusingly self-conscious use of Hamlet’s ‘quintessence of dust’ was also very well judged, slotting into the drama nicely, rather than pulling you out of it. I unreservedly recommend this show, particularly to those who want to see the stars of the future bring a chill to your Fringe.
Pleasance Courtyard – Beyond, 4th – 19th August, 15:30
Image: Heather Pasfield