A review by Pauline Flannery for EXTRA! EXTRA!



Dark Tales

Director Ian Breeds

Rosemary Branch Theatre

24-28 August 2011



Dark Tales offers up three short plays from the horror genre: more schlich, rather than slick featuring the teen-slasher Bloody Mary, shock-horror Unsound Mind and the paranormal in The Evacuee. Each is written and directed by Quint-Essential Theatre Company’s Ian Breeds.

Bloody Mary: ‘a dare that takes a turn for the worse,’ is a ten minute play with heartbeats, trick or treating and half-masked grim reaper. The tale spins on a group of friends staring into a mirror at midnight, shouting ‘Bloody Mary’ three times. Modern touches involve the mobile phone, creating an eerie on-stage presence later in the piece; and lines such as, ‘that film still shits me up.’ Yet there’s little to bite into here as we are not drawn into the characters’ world. Initially, this is set in a tatty student-like bedsit, and latterly outside. Yet punctuated by too many blackouts, the tension and relationships between the characters is left undeveloped.

As a stocking-filler between plays one and two is The Child of Nantucks Lane. This tale delivered as a voiceover is atmospheric, as the deep resonant voice of Jeremy Young, caught in the semi-darkness, strikes just the right chilling tone in this nettle of a tale about driving.

The second play Unsound Mind: ‘a prescription for troubled love,’ attempts theatricality through its white costumes, operatic sound-score and pink/blue wash lighting, courtesy of Viktor Palfi. Sanjay (Jasraj Sahota) and hamster-crushing Hannah (Monique Cunningham) play the foursome in this play about obsession. Yet the main focus is the doctor/patient relationship between Psychiatrist Dr Michael Evans (Andy Gibbins) and Jenny (Sarah Tyler Shaw). Evans has transgressed with patients in the past, will he do so again? Jenny says at one point, ‘I didn’t say I trusted you, I said I could talk to you about anything.’ This is an interesting dynamic, ripe for development.

The third and final play The Evacuee: ‘your past is never laid to rest,’ offers creaking wardrobes, musical boxes, drawers/chairs that move on their own; and ‘the letter’ the most ubiquitous, yet convenient device in Melodrama. Janet won’t speak. She is evacuated out of London during WWII and is billeted to widower George. Amidst a round of breakfasts, school drops and bed-making, things go bump in the night as both become caught up in their respective pasts. Monique Cunningham is striking here as the mute, troubled teenager.  

For the most part, the writing in all three plays is too predictable and clichéd to grip fully. ‘Is it still possible to scare a modern audience and what are the key elements that go into creating a horror play?’ This is the task, writer/director Ian Breeds, sets himself at the inception of Dark Tales earlier this year.

In answer to the first maybe we need our Gothic piles, confined spaces and Monsters to ultimately titivate and thrill us. Yet take a leaf out of the best of modern, gothic writing in J Ramsey Campbell: ‘the horror writer’s horror writer,’ read by the likes of Stephen King and Dean R Koontz. In answer to the second this can be wrapped up in one word, tension; ratcheted up, with every line, character and plot device. In horror movies, film can overcome a good deal through skillful editing; theatre is a different story….


Rosemary Branch Theatre
2 Shepperton Road
London, N1 3DT
Tickets £12/10 (concs) 7.30pm

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