Review: The Tell-Tale Heart, Threedumb Theatre

Who would’ve thought we’d live through something scarier than a classic Gothic story? Edgar Allen Poe and his short but terrifying tales formed the foundation on which modern horror is built, but they still manage to strike fear into the hearts of those that read them almost 200 years later. The Tell-Tale Heart, the 1843 story of an unnamed narrator trying to convince us he’s not mad whilst describing a grisly murder he’s just committed, is undoubtedly a classic. Now, on week seven of the countrywide lockdown, Threedumb Theatre join the thankfully ever-growing list of online theatre offerings, and bring us The Tell-Tale Heart, live streamed from a living room. 

Company Director Stephen Smith is spearheading this production, so I assume it’s his living room we’re tuning in to. With help from Stephanie Van Den Driesen and David Smith, what follows is quite an impressive little show given the circumstances. I’m pleasantly surprised at the lighting and props. How does Smith have green, red and blue lights laying around at home? Are they a regular light with various Quality Street wrappers held in front of them? The severed head covered in (hopefully) fake blood is realistic-enough looking for me to question where they got that, too. Some thought and improvisation must have gone into the creation of this show, which I can always appreciate. 

Most of the technicalities do, as Threedumb Theatre suggest they might, add to the charm. The slightly shaky hand-held camera, held unsettlingly close to Smith’s face, gives a sort of ‘if the Narrator were a vlogger’ vibe. His ramblings of murder and madness are intensified under the coloured lights and zoomed-in frame, and in leading the camera around he adds to the committing-murder-on-FaceTime illusion that is genuinely quite disturbing. Physically close to the character, trailing his every move, we become in on the act, a confidant. When the camera is in focus and Smith is taking to us, looking directly down the lens, the story is captivating.

The production is all underpinned by Smith’s acting. If he weren’t as good as he is, the show would not be as watchable. I suspect it might be tempting to over-compensate in a situation with minimal means such as this, but thankfully Smith doesn’t do that. He instead delivers a suitably spooky but nuanced performance, avoiding an over-the-top London Dungeon’s style character. Combined with Edgar Allen Poe’s flawless original text, and the ingenuity of the company, Threedumb Theatre have created a perfectly enjoyable re-telling of The Tell-Tale Heart.

The Tell-Tale Heart is streaming at 10pm on the Threedumb Theatre Facebook page until 10 May. For more information, visit the Threedumb Theatre Facebook page