ernestLes Enfants Terribles has produced a visually stunning tale of Gothic horror that will set your teeth on edge. Reminiscent of Tim Burton’s work, the play contains all the classic tropes of the genre: a beautiful incarcerated girl, a love triangle, madness, murder and moonlight. The four-strong cast seamlessly double as characters and narrators throughout, and the method of narration combines with the Victoriana aesthetic to create the milieu of an eerie fairy-tale.

The downside of this technique is that there is minimal characterisation, and besides Ernest’s descent into madness, no character development. This doesn’t impinge on the effectiveness of the plot, but stops the audience from investing in the outcome as much as might be desirable. This is partly due to the nature of using archetypical characters from the genre, and a sequence where two of the characters move like clockwork suggests a self-awareness of the characters’ lack of agency and originality.

In addition to the characterisation, the plot feels a little weak. The central events are repeated several times from different characters’ perspectives or with a slightly altered version of events, creating a building picture of the true story. Nevertheless, the main result of this is that the plot feels sparse. Although there is a twist at the end, this doesn’t feel sufficiently satisfying and the denouement feels slightly rushed.

These elements stop Ernest and the Pale Moon from being a truly wonderful piece of theatre, but it is still extremely enjoyable for being visually spectacular, and for its many moments of tension and sheer horror: the sound representing fingernails scratching from inside a boarded-up wall is chilling and excruciating, and the piece opens with a horrible flash of Ernest’s silhouette in the moonlight that can’t fail to snap the audience to attention. Despite some weaknesses in the writing, Ernest and the Pale Moon is flawlessly performed and a joy to watch.