Ernest and the Pale Moon
Spellbinding gothic horror
This article is from 2009.
Writer Oliver Lansley has once again reached into his wonderfully twisted mind for this dark gem. After beguiling and terrifying children in equal measure with macabre fairytales in The Terrible Infants in 2007 and 2008, his company, Les Enfants Terribles, is back with an adult scare.
Taking inspiration from Hitchcock’s Rear Window and the Brothers Grimm before they were Disneyfied, this fully-fledged horror spectacle follows the desires of three occupants of an apartment block, each with a penchant for looking out the window and falling in love with some unattainable object of desire. As we all know, in the rules of the horror genre, this can only lead to bad things, in this case jealousy, rage and madness.
Teaming up with director Emma Earle for her physical and visual storytelling nous, the four principal actors employ an inventive range of onstage effects to conjure an immersive world in which to play out this parable. As the actors slip in and out of roles (donning different costumes, instruments or props) the narrative shifts between the present and the past and the perspective jumps from one character to the next with ease. As the characters’ lives intersect, the framework of a gothic horror story provides escalating tension, as well as the requisite twists and turns, until the stage is awash with (imaginery) blood and audiences’ hearts are in their mouths.
It takes a skilled company to transport an audience into such an unsettling and complete world and then bundle them back safely into the ‘real’ one. The safe, if spooky, hands of Lansley and his equally talented cast have the power to manipulate imaginations as easily as they turn a cello and a shawl into an utterly convincing sleeping woman, and forge a complex, self-contained experience that, once over, feels like a half-remembered, lingering dream.