“Keep on Swimming in this River and you will Drown in Blood.”

James Coe reviews the Drama Society’s production, ‘Darkness There’

darkness there Drama LUDS

Joseph Spink’s first foray into directing offers a surreal and nightmarish adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic, The Raven. Darkness There is a play that will stay with you long after the curtain falls.

Delivered almost completely in curt and measured rhyme Joseph Spink and Assistant Director Bernie Whittle have turned Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven into a crippling bleak tale of; rape, depression and ultimately fratricide.

The play opens with utter darkness. The crowd is blinded. Silence. The strobe lighting kicks in, piercing the dark; disorienting all those watching. Darkness again. The Raven speaks and immediately we are drawn in.

There is a reluctance to give away too much. The impact of the crimes of The Raven and the audience’s realisation of the extent of the crimes resists any description in a review such as this. This is a play that forces us to consider our own moral judgements as well as the way we view the moralising of others.

As the play progresses we are encouraged to believe that everything is not as it appears. We move from sympathising with The Raven as a man who is conditioned by his upbringing; to despising him for the actions he commits.

The Raven’s mental state continually worsens to the point of a complete breakdown. His decrepit psyche manifests itself in a sexual obsession with his niece Leonore. Finally he rapes and murders her, signifying his final step into mental darkness. It is well worth noting that Francesa Williams plays Leonore with a moving delicacy that can only heighten our sadness at her demise.

The trial of The Raven takes place. He is found not guilty of the murder of Leonora due to a lack of evidence. The chilling staccato tone delivered by Corvus (the conscience of the Raven) reminds us that the torments of the mind are far more profound than those of the body. When The Raven loses his tongue, Corvus takes over. His dark conscience and The Raven himself become one in the same, an intricate and complex piece of direction well performed.

The play ends with the murder of The Raven. Killed by his own brother. It would be gratuitous to state that we are pleased when The Raven dies, but it’s certainly difficult to say he didn’t deserve it.

An exceedingly enjoyable début by Joseph Spink and his cast. A special mention must go to first time LUDS participant Harry Coleman. His superb portrayal of a man torn between the extremes of intense anguish and acute psychopathic tendencies belied his inexperience.

An excellent production from LUDS and it is hard not to be excited for their upcoming productions.

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