Very Still and Hard to See

Mon 12th – Sat 24th August 2013

reviews

Suzanne Duffy

at 04:00 on 15th Aug 2013

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A pact with the devil is a familiar theatrical trope, but 'Very Still and Hard to See' delivers this Faustian theme with several twists worthy of Roald Dahl’s macabre short stories. The bizarre, creepy, and often hilarious, vignettes which were loosely based on Japanese tales of the supernatural were all linked together and formed into a full circle of events by the final scene.

The constant looming presence of demons dressed in cloaks with their faces covered, lent a tense edge to every scene, even more so because, once a scene had finished, the actors were absorbed into their ranks. At the same time, they contrasted brilliantly with their impeccably dressed leader (Julie Binysh) who inhabits a hole under a hotel and, after making a deal with the architect, sends her minions to disrupt the lives of those who stay there.

The simultaneous acting was extremely impressive when the cloaked figures mirrored the lines of the actors, particularly in the scene in which Jasper (Josh Lawson) appeared to be being possessed and threatened his friends in the voice of a demon: “I need to find you some rope and teach you some manners.”

Murders, or at least mysterious supernatural deaths, abound in this play, and yet it is far from tragic. The timing of Fiona Cullen as Ginger is perfect - a guest at the hotel who is serving some kind of penance by trying to find true love but, much to the despair of her two demon guardians, keeps eating her girlfriends. Small touches, like the reproachful indignation of the demon played by Tamsin Fellowes when she corrects her companion: “not eating, consuming”, demonstrates that this is a production that pays attention to the details.

My favourite scenes were the two that tackled the subject of unsatisfying husbands who were both dealt with in weird ways. Pauline Armour in particular was excellent as the apparently unassuming and normal older lady who turned out to be so much more, both to the audience and to her dull unkind spouse. The play did have a moral centre in that the demons appeared to possess their own internal logic of how justice should be served and who deserved to suffer; this was what made it compelling rather than just strange.

I highly recommend this delightfully surreal play performed by a well-chosen cast. Without giving away the ending, I can promise you it will be satisfying.

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Samuel Graydon

at 04:04 on 15th Aug 2013

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It is not often a horror show leaves me smiling and warmly satisfied. I dare say that until ‘Very Still and Hard to See’ it had, in fact, never happened at all. This play is, quite simply, life-affirming. It seems odd to suggest that any production where there are over five deaths can be warming or funny, but this play proves an exception.

While it certainly pushes the boundaries of how dark a dark comedy is to be, there are genuine laughs, and the macabre happenings of the plot all befall the appropriately debased, wicked, or simply annoying, characters.

Comprising of many short episodes of the hauntings of a grand American hotel, the stories at first appear disparate, like little vignettes of horror inflicted upon holidaying guests. Yet, these eventually wrap themselves into a satisfyingly cohesive overarching plot.

There is, however, not a little charm in the short story format that the play so wonderfully embraces. It allows for bright flames of story-telling invention to shine with an intensity that would have been impossible if they had been required to have lasted fifty or so minutes. A case in point would the most humorous of the stories, involving a blind date (ending in a severely sinister implication), and a pair of despairing and cynical demons.

All of this was added to by the high quality of the acting, which was sustained throughout. Julie Binush’s performance as the leader of the pack of meddling and violent demons is certainly sinister and scary, almost to a point where you believe the marrow-crunching threats she makes. Likewise, the light-hearted and funny elements of the play were performed well also, the demons of Kyle Cluett and Tamsin Fellowes being particularly of note.

Due to this quality of acting, and the quality of the sharp writing, this play is pleasantly scary. By which I mean, while it leaves one waiting tensely for the next calamity to come upon an unfortunate character, it also gives one an immense sense of enjoyment in doing so. I cannot imagine another play like this, and for this reason I certainly think that it is worth going to see.

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