The fecund wordsmith Van Badham’s latest delight is a scary little number that could have been extracted straight from the tomes of Edgar Allan Poe.
The who’s-haunting-who tale smacks of the macabre from the first metronomic tock, and is stylistically right at home in the state dining room of Ayers House; a venue not considered frightening… until now.
Set in Adelaidean days of yore, the cat-and-mouse between young governess Xaviera Grace (Claire Glenn) and her handsy nocturnal chum, Alexander (John Maurice) plays neatly against the mounting tension from the developing mysteries. Tamara Lee plays a matronly and intimidating Victoria; an unlikeable character whose prickly personality and wavering authority isn’t the only reason she doesn’t get out much.
Maurice exudes a quiet malevolence mixed with charm that makes for convincing creepiness, and Glenn brings a commanding presence, flipping easily from vulnerable little-girl-lost to lady sophisticate, creating the onion-skin effect of an actor playing an actor. Glenn’s furrowed brows, blood curdling screams and a stomach-churning Aurelian tale are highlights of her energetic performance.
Hirsute composer Richard Wise keeps us on the edge of his piano with sound effects and a recurring waltz that creates the perfect amount of morbid expectation from the seemingly innocent notes. Pay close attention to the proceedings as Badham leaves some tantalising clues along the way, but don’t fret if you’re in the dark until the last; the hour is, after all, late.
Some of the direction felt a little staid, particularly given the revelations, and the pace was, at times, protracted for the punchy script, but the final reveal is worth these trifles.
If you like your ghost stories late, classy and full of tension, Badham’s ethereal attraction is super. Naturally.
Reviewed by Gordon Forester
Rating out of 5: 4
Venue: Ayers House – State Dining Room, 288 North Terrace, Adelaide
Season: 24 February – 1 March 2015
Duration: 70 minutes
Tickets: $15 – $25
Bookings: Book through FringeTix online or at a FringeTix box office (booking fees apply)