The whole audience has come to Greywing House to stay, to the slight shock of the landlady Miss Amelia, who was only expecting two of you. She hopes we won’t be too snug, and she’s sure we’ll be able manage, just as she does. But it is difficult to manage things when the damp keeps spreading, your husband and father-in-law have both walked into the sea never to return and Mr Thurston upstairs keeps calling for fresh sheeps’ blood. This B+B by the sea is the setting for Mary Beth Morossa’s deeply gothic, greatly entertaining solo show, and you wonder if the house will let you – or her – leave by the end.
The performance is set at various times of the day in the hall of the B+B, and consists of Amelia telling us gruesome little stories of the local land and village, what landmarks are good for a visit and how she has ended up running this lonely house by herself. She creates the world clearly, her phrasing and intonation crisp and clear, perfect for the gothic style. Her cheerfully desperate 50’s housewife kind of a character gives a chilling account of the day the sea turned black, and happily regales us with how the old incestuous couple used to take daily walks to the standing stone at the top of the cliff. The tales are built from a mix of rich speech and morbid poetry, delighting in mood and phrasing as theatrical horror loves to do. Morossa flicks easily between poetry and prose and keeps her performance fresh and fluid, though she does take just a bit too long stressing some details. Her physicality is strong, especially when becoming another character and donning marvelous glowing spectacles. The setting is simply but effectively communicated through a desk, an armchair and a window, all of which are delightfully incorporated into the more physical aspects of her storytelling.
The wordy performance is given variation through some puppetry, projections and physical theatre, each taking us to somebody else’s story or deeper into the desperation of Miss Amelia. The puppetry is wonderful, transforming the set easily and effectively, and manipulated with marvelous skill and grace. The physical theatre that shows a sleepwalking Amelia’s obsessions could use a lot more work, being weak in execution. The accompanying music suits the show so well, but her movements in these sections aren’t cohesive with the music, tailing off halfway through and lessening its drama, letting down what could have been a marvelous performance. The projections seem a little superfluous, mostly giving Morossa time to change costumes, but they did contribute to the storytelling towards the end.
This is a show that really knows its genre conventions, and plays with them extremely well to create its weird gothic world. Its use of mystery, loss and dark humour is perfectly pitched, and its tales will stay with you a long time after you leave the theatre.