Buzzcuts, Oct 2000

I Might Be Edgar Allen Poe

reviewed by Annette Young (Buzzcuts, Oct 2000)

Flipping through the Melbourne Fringe Festival guide I was instantly drawn to the title "I Might Be Edgar Allen Poe." Described as a dark comedy about a mental patient who thinks he might be the master of horror fiction, I decided it was a must see. With little knowledge of Edgar Allen Poe or the writer Dawson Nichols, I called to arrange an interview with the cast, only to discover the cast was one actor. By this stage I was extremely sceptical although a little more intrigued, and I had a well crafted back-up-escape-plan if the show was painfully boring.

To my relief, my plan was never deployed. I was instantly captivated, intrigued and astonished by the brilliant performance of David Hayward as he became each individual character, revealing the depths of this inter-woven storyline. Each character pieced together the puzzle of Joseph's (the narrator) past, inviting the audience into the tangled web of his mind.

The play uncovers the tragedy and emotion of Joseph's life, both his past and present, revealing the moments which led him to be institutionalised, and explores his attempts to cope with the disapproval and repression from those around him. He escapes the turmoil of constant self-analysis by reading Edgar Allen Poe to the point of obsession, and feels so familiar with the words he is convinced he may be the writer. Funnily enough, feeling deeply connected and moved by a writer's work is not too distant a thought for anyone. So it is easy to understand, in a moment of insanity, how one could believe they had indeed written the words.

Much to my relief, this play was not rendition after rendition of a tortured soul reciting the prose of Poe. But rather a gentle introduction to the brilliance of Poe's writing through Joseph's mind. Hayward's passionate and refreshingly down to earth delivery offers insight into the raw appeal of Poe's works. With my knowledge of Poe extended as far as Homer and Bart Simpson's rendition of the Raven, I was surprised by how easy to understand and drawn in I was by Poe's words and meaning.

At first a little confronting, the intimate setting and somewhat small cast gradually intensify the experience and reflect that the story is set in Josephs mind. Thought provoking, absorbing and funny at times (particularly the professor), this absorbing performance is really amazing to watch. If you go to this play expecting the glitz and glamour of a big theatre production, you will be severely disappointed. What you will discover, however, is a tightly written brilliantly acted exploration of a single man's mind. A bravely intense and purely creative work.

I Might Be Edgar Allen Poe is playing at The Chapel Loft, Chapel off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street Prahran. Phone (03) 9658 9600. The tickets are $18 full, $12 concession. The show runs from Wednesday 18th October, until Sunday 22nd October (8.30pm-11pm).