One Man Poe, The Space/Online

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Ahh Autumn, the crisp leaves falling from the tree. The smell of bonfires and fireworks. As
the nights get shorter, we look to a comforting horror to bring us into the winter months.
There is nothing better guaranteed to give you a warm feeling than a good spine chiller.
As such, this is a timely capturing of four of Edgar Allen Poe’s best known stories, The Tell-
Tale Heart, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Black Cat and the Raven. Each is delivered in
monologue exactly as written by Poe – the master of gothic horror – all those years ago.

Stephen Smith is a compelling performer who captures and holds the attention well. As
director he has also made a choice to bring a stillness to the majority of the monologues
that works individually to the pieces, concentrating the mind on the words and the senses.
However, four monologues in a row (even with an interval) is a big ask of an audience. That
stillness can lead you to fidget somewhat (this might be as much a criticism of me as an
audience as of the piece).

While both the source material and the delivery are superb, the
fact that each is a standalone story means that the energy and tempo of at least the first
three builds in a similar manner. This makes the piece as a whole seem somewhat
disjointed. You are brought to the crescendo of one grisly tale only to return to the gentle
entry into another.

Smith has definitely saved the best for last. The Raven is my favourite Poe (and definitely his
best known work) and the musicality of it allows the one-man performance to really get into
its own and build to a beautiful and mournful song of loss and haunted memories.

This is Smith’s second foray into the world of Edgar Allen Poe, with his Black Cat a previous
online delight. I enjoyed this and found the story telling compelling individually even if the
whole piece felt a little overlong. As a woman with a gothic heart, I am almost as drawn to
Poe as Smith is. But I also look forward to seeing what this interesting and captivating
performer will do with different source material.

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