The Black Cat
- Lorna Irvine
- 9 August 2017
Poe classic gets a twist in the tail
Olwen Davies and Ollie Smith, clad in noirish Gothic elegance, have decided that The Raven is over-familiar, and so are setting about rebranding Edgar Allan Poe's lesser-known but still classic short story from 1843, The Black Cat. Using the titular feline as a conduit for their unnamed couple's many marital frustrations, they playfully dismantle Poe's most famous leitmotifs: endless gruesome female deaths, men drinking through existential gloom, raging storms, eye gouging. Reading from scripts at desks, it's part radio play set-up, part impish physical theatre, but without really cohering.
A cabbage is stabbed, emulating a Foley-like sound effect, much wine drunk, and the pair playfully bicker about their roles, striving to 'make a better cover version, like Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah"' and vacillating between straight readings, or Vincent Price camp. The cat itself is represented by a balloon which Smith threatens to pop. Davies parodies the way women in Poe's stories are presented as idealised, suffering wives who simply react, with little agency.
It's all fun, punching holes in the reverence for macabre Victorian drawing-room melodrama with some nice ideas, but it's rather inessential and lightweight – even if Davies and Smith have really good chemistry together. Kudos to them, though, for playing fast and loose with the format.
Underbelly Cowgate, until 20 Aug (not 13), 7.20 pm, £10–£11 (£9–£10). Also Underbelly Med Quad, 13 Aug, 1.15pm.