A mixture of horror and hilarity, this deft and superbly acted piece balances humour and dark terror, with superb acting of multiple characters from all of the actors.
The background to the piece surrounds children’s author E Nesbit, best known for The Railway Children, and reveals that not only does she write bleak and terrifying horror stories, but she also has a gruesome domestic life, blighted by the loss of her son during surgery. But it is not all dark – there is humour and sparkle here too.
Avoiding the Christmas celebrations at home in her room, she is pursued by an avid fan of her work, Mr Guasto, who is desperate to hear Nesbit read from her work. Not being a real fan of her fans, Edith gives him a wicked and over the top reworking of the crucial train crash scene from the Railway Children, she then decides to move on to her private, dark horror tales.
We move from a fiendish destruction of young love to killer weeds, and onto a grisly ebony picture frame found in an attic with two mysterious images hidden within it, placed surface to surface.
Each of the tales are dramatised by the three actors, taking on diverse characters from Edith’s desolate tales and bringing them to life (or sometimes death) with uncanny skills – and with stagecraft and timing that is immaculate.
We also learn more about the oppressive atmosphere in the author’s house, with her being forced to bring up the children of her husband’s mistress, and about her loathing of her legions of adoring literary fans. The nature of her dwelling on the dark side of human nature also comes out, with a childhood trip to a crypt
As the evening moves on, it becomes clear that there’s more to Mr Guasto than first appears, and at the climax, there is a classic twist in the tale that leaves the audience surprised and still satisfied.
The stage set is remarkably intricate and large-scale for a Fringe production, and it is well used within the production, and both the lighting and incidental, background and mood music all combine to add to the tight and increasingly absorbing atmosphere of this performance.
This is a taut, dramatically satisfying performance with crisp dialogue, skilled performances and just the right mixture of the comic and the horror. Go book this now.