The Red Room ***

The Red Room, directed by Al Seed and choreographed by David Hughes, is based on Edgar Allan Poe’s famous short story The Masque of the Red Death.  Less of an interpretation and more of a production that is inspired by Poe’s work, the piece centres around a group of people that have escaped a vicious plague by locking themselves away for debauched merriment.

The fact that it is based on a parable about never escaping death should alert people to the bleak nature of the piece.  Yes, there are some humorous moments, but this is not a happy-go-lucky production; it is disturbing.

And one cannot find fault with any of the six performers, all of whom not only perform brilliantly but manage to move in surprising ways that are beautiful, haunting and, at times, horrifying.  There are some playful moments that are highlighted by eerie flashes, but it all collimates into a final that is both awe-inspiring and unnerving.

However, when one looks to the narrative the faults begin to appear.  As excellent as each performance is, it isn’t necessarily clear as to who each person represents and what is happening.  A working knowledge of Poe’s story will certainly help in deciphering what is occurring, but those ignorant of the story will only be able to get the general gist rather than appreciate what is unfolding.

Still, the performances are all so brilliant that anyone who enjoys complicated physical theatre should find much to like and admire.  However, those looking for a form of narrative and character will probably be let down.

The Red Room is so well performed that I find myself still recommending it, even if that recommendation comes solely on the backs of its hard-working ensemble, all of whom rise above any narrative uncertainty.

Originally written for Onstage Scotland.

Performing at Traverse 1 until August 16th, then touring.


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