The Basement Tapes
- David Kettle
- 10 August 2018
Something is lurking beneath Summerhall's festivities
A young woman is raking through the detritus of her deceased grandmother's life – the outmoded overcoats, the embarrassing record collection, the dolls and the ping-pong balls. When she stumbles across an ancient tape recorder and a musty set of cassettes, she feels compelled to sample what's on them – and soon begins to fear what she might have unleashed.
Down in Summerhall's own basement, this unsettling Kiwi shocker grows ever eerier as we discover more about the old woman's life, and about the mysterious doppelgänger she apparently once glimpsed when driving. Its climax feels as all-consuming as it is abrupt – it would be churlish to give more away, of course – but its come-down makes clear that this is a show whose horrors lie close to home.
It's creepy stuff, but there are sections in the show's lengthy build-up that feel frustratingly wasted – an overlong dance routine, for example, or a goofy exchange with a pizza delivery guy, that sap the building atmosphere. Stella Reid is captivating in the central role, but there's a sense that even she's occasionally treading water rather than cranking up the tension before the unnerving final moments. Nevertheless, it's a chilling, cleverly conceived hour of theatre that will have you unpicking its clues long after the show's over.
Summerhall, until 26 Aug (not 13, 20), 6.30pm, £12 (£10).