Plenty of creep, not enough deep
This article is from 2011.
There is something in all of us that relishes a scary story, and Ben Harrison’s production for Grid Iron certainly doesn’t stint in this regard. Set at the medical school of Edinburgh University, this piece alludes ceaselessly through music and visuals to pop-cultural movie frighteners from Halloween to The Innocents, providing much rich fare for the horror movie buff.
In it, David Paul Jones’ deranged piano maestro makes for a splendid grimacing, sneering high camp baroque villain, flitting through the successive site-specific locales as a menacing shadowy presence, muttering the occasional injunction to we, his piano student audience. Among the displays of old bones and fairground ghost train devices, musical instruments are presented as torture devices. Meanwhile, a sub plot involving an abducted child, tortured by a madman in a music conservatoire is hinted at, but not quite realised.
Everything from the grim memento mori of bones and pictures of long dead posh people, to the moment where the audience is literally put to bed in a grim dormitory and left to answer the swelling existential question posed by the piece’s title on a form, adds to the immersive character of the piece. But it’s hard to say to what purpose. This production seems to imitate genre without making any real point about it, which feels disappointing for a company of Grid Iron’s unquestioned quality. So, too, given that such art forms as the horror film have contributed far more profoundly to our culture than you might expect, it’s sad that little has gone into elucidating this fact. That said, the recompense comes in Jones’ musical contributions and the meticulous presentation of the installations, which will not leave you thinking very deeply, but will certainly prove equal to the ticket price.
Traverse @ Edinburgh University Medical School Anatomy Department, 228 1404, until 28 Aug (not 15, 22), times vary, £17–£19 (£12–£13).