I’m definitely going to have nightmares for the next couple of nights! Mary Beth Morossa presents a macabre evening of theatre with this double bill of brilliantly written and performed plays. The mix of poetry, puppetry and cabaret easily makes this one of the more memorable Off West End productions I have seen.
The first play presented is Carnival of Crows, where the audience is introduced to a carnival sidekick – Poppy. She delves deep into the Victorian underworld of carnival sideshows as she tells the tales of the Laudenum Sisters and their twisted showman, Edward. Disturbing, dark and often uncomfortable tales unfold as Morossa’s talented storytelling skills guide us through the minds and fate of these bleak characters.
This thrilling story is not packed with cheap jump scares or obvious storylines as so many modern horror stories have become. The tale involves gripping scenes, more often then not with a hint of Tim Burton inspiration and hair-raising graphic descriptions of violence. The audience have to use their imagination during such grim scenes, but this could make it all the more sinister.
The general performance from Morossa during this one-woman play was overwhelmingly incredible. Her use of eye contact with the audience when portraying Edward was particularly discomforting, especially in the small venue. Her multitudes of talents really shone through in this performance from dance to puppetry. Truly a master class of performance art.
One of the most significant aspects of the play was the set – a dark room of hanging white cages with a long dark coat and top hat hanging off one of them. At certain moments of the play, the stage is empty, and pre-recorded poetry is recited with only one part of the set lit up. This is used extremely well and really makes the audience concentrate more on the content of the poem.
This was followed on by another one-woman performance of Greywing House. Set in a guest house on a coast “resting over a cruel and torturous ocean”, the play follows Miss Anna as she prepares your room. As with the previous show, tales are unfolded through expert storytelling, and themes of isolation and loss are studied through a classically gothic lens.
The use of the audience being the character of the guest is used excellently, and made me feel part of the the action – although at times guilty when the conflict arose between Miss Anna and the guests. As Morossa’s performance transforms from black comedy at the start of the play to scenes which would be no stranger in a nightmare, she convincingly holds the audience’s attention and lets them hang onto her every world.
Chilling background music is provided by Daniel Cross who provides an original score for the play and completes the morbid effect, specifically during scenes of dance or projected moving images.
I strongly recommend Carnival of Crows and Greywing House for an interesting and ghoulish evening of theatre, although it seemed that performing both shows back-to-back was a bit overambitious and heavy, especially during the extended interval where the production team had to completely change the set. However, with Morossa’s skillful storytelling, you will most definitely be moved if not frightened.
Carnival of Crows and Greywing House is playing at the Old Red Lion Theatre until 3 October. For more information and tickets, see the Old Red Lion Theatre website.