[VFF2019] Quoth the Raven, Nevermore! The Musical Returns to Victoria

24 Aug

nevermoreLocation:
Metro Studio Theatre
(Fringe Venue 3)
1411 Quadra Street

Remaining Performances:
Aug 25 08:15 pm
Aug 28 05:45 pm
Aug 30 10:45 pm
Aug 31 09:30 pm

It’s very rare for me to get to see Nevermore put on by different theatre companies. It was first performed back in 2009 by Catalyst Theatre in Alberta and since then, other versions have popped up. Both gained accolades. Back in 2011, Urban Arts (defunct now) offered a Halloween thrilled spectacle recounting the life of Edgar Allan Poe. This company got permission to perform in the old courtroom in Bastion Square–the oldest part of Victoria–to give this show a special ambience different from a stage production. Because of the set, the life and times of this seminal poet, madman and architect of the macabre was center stage; audiences had the freedom to be either courtroom visitors watching or jurors waiting to cast a verdict on this person’s life.

At Intrepid Theatre‘s Metro Theatre, the 2019 Victoria Fringe Festival version has the benefit of proper stage lighting and a misty setting to give the performance a different vibe. It was more gothic. This version by Hapax Theatre stars Elliott James as Poe, Sasha Moriarty-Schieven as the Mother, Keeley Teuber as Muddy, Lara Hamburg as Elmira, Abby Corpus as Virginia and Ingrid Moore the Whore. Watching the ghosts this author faced as they descended upon him was thrilling. This setting gave a different point of view; we are looking through the looking glass at what Poe faced. Torment came at him in many directions, including us as one spirit appeared mid-audience and descended onto the stage. The people he saw were indeed etheric.

Moriarty-Schieven’s presence was perfect as that watchful matriarch. Corpus’ very youthful appearance conveyed the sense of why Poe’s ‘interest’ in his first cousin should be frowned upon. Her death was a huge catalyst to the poet’s eventual meltdown.

poe2

Photo credit: James Holkko

I wondered if this company would change the play up any. Instead, it’s everything as I’d remembered from the show way back then. One major difference is with the lighting design and the quality of the song performances. James has a better tenor than countertenor range, and Teuber was the most consistent throughout. Instead of having a large band perform the melodies, the piano is all that’s needed to evoke the many moods to underscore the pressure Poe was facing. Maia Copley is the accompanist providing the live music.

Three of the best numbers will always remain “The Raven,” “To My Mother” and “Annabel Lee.” These simplified versions for one instrument stand out as far better than the bigger productions. However, it should be noted Matt Conner & Grace Barnes wrote this version Hapex is using. They make deeper use of the Poe’s various works (my favourite is always going to be The Pit and the Pendulum) to advance the story. “It’s one of those weird coincidences,”  company director Heather Jarvie explained.

poe

Photo credit: James Holkko

I’ve often wondered if the play can end on a different note with Poe screaming, “Nevermore!” as the climax. Yes, this musical is a biography and I feel we don’t need every aspect of this author’s life recounted.

I should mention the 2015 Nevermore–The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe show is bigger and bolder, offering more musical content. Plus, production photos show a lot of time was invested into costume design. Twenty-two tracks outline the life and times up to his death. To this day, we never got a definitive answer of what caused his passing. I’d be thrilled to see an interpretation seeing the devil arriving in Boston. To have something more sinister in play that cost him his life can add to the myth. If his ghost is to see this musical, I’m sure he’d be weeping. Those pearly gates never opened to accept him; the private hell he created, I feel, is still smothering him.

4 Stars out of 5

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