Review by Tatum Stafford
Nevermore – The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe is described as “dark, dazzling, bizarre and beautiful” – and after attending last night’s opening performance, it’s clear that this innovative production matches this description and is sure to leave quite an impact on its future audiences.
As the show’s seven players drifted onstage, their incredible period costumes (amazing work from Therese Cruise) and heavy, gothic makeup is instantly effective.
The cast of Nevermore are nothing short of phenomenal. Besides Edgar Allan Poe (Cal Silberstein), the cast is comprised of six ‘players’ who pass a large narrator book between them to unfold Poe’s story to the audience. They each play a handful of supporting roles in Poe’s story, including his mother Eliza (Charlotte Louise), his brother Henry (Zac Bennett-McPhee), his sister Rosalie (Arianne Westcott-King), his pseudo-stepfather Jock Allan (Daniel Burton), his teenage love interest Elmira (Erin Craddock) and one of his writing-world rivals, Rufus Griswold (Simon Brett). This is just a snapshot of the myriad of characters each player seamlessly transitioned between – as mentioned earlier, each cast member had multiple stints as the show’s narrator.
The show was incredibly slick, and there was a noticeable comradery between its players as they worked as one powerful ensemble to connect pieces of Edgar’s life together. Notable moments were Cal (Edgar)’s effortless tenor passages and strong acting that evoked plenty of empathy from the audience, Charlotte (Player 5/Eliza)’s lilting soprano and quirky characterisation which soared in her sequence as Edgar’s mother Eliza, and Simon (Player 1/Rufus)’s powerful vocals in the opening number, which set the tone of the show beautifully. Erin (Player 6/Elmira)’s curious nature as Elmira was lovely to watch, Daniel (Player 2/Jock Allan) had an impressively powerful stage presence, Arianne (Player 4/Fanny Allan) provided plenty of comic relief with her tittering laughter and witty characterisation, and Zac (Player 3/Henry) was grounded and really ‘sold’ his narrative as a wise brother to Edgar.
One of the most impressive aspects of the show is its contrast of dark thematic material with moments of levity, which are seamlessly slotted throughout the show and allow the audience a bit of breathing space amongst what is otherwise a very heavy and sad story.
Another fantastic element of the show was its impactful, stylised choreography by Anita Telkamp. The show boasts quite a lengthy song list, and Anita struck a beautiful balance between theatrical movement and more taxing choreography that the cast handled with grace and complete control.
In what is a very complex show with plenty of narrative to follow, Lorna Mackie’s direction is formidable, and provides audiences an accessible way into this dark and beautiful story. Every movement, character interaction, or beat in the narrator sequences has purpose and clear intention, and all of these aspects serve the story beautifully. Maddison Moulin’s musical direction is also fantastic, and her band of seven talented musicians should be commended for their faultless work.
This show felt incredibly special, especially in Perth’s often commercialised roster of musical theatre shows. I’d highly recommend getting yourself a ticket and immersing yourself in the twists and turns that Poe will throw at you.