Fringe Review: Stories in the Dark

Words by Lochy Maybury

The Manse room at Holden Street is equal parts Nanna’s living room and Sarah Ruhl play as the audience shuffles in and plops down on the ottomans and pouffes wedged into the pokey space. The actors chat with the audience as they enter, books on their lap. It feels like storytime.

Stories in the Dark is a combination of theatre and aural installation that feels like the best parts of what Fringe used to be. As it stands, the Fringe is a massive, sprawling beast with high-budget shows and even higher-budget venues for getting shitfaced. Though these have their place, it is refreshing to see a work of simplicity and sparseness. This kind of theatre exemplifies artistic ingenuity; a testament to what can be achieved with very little.

Once the audience has settled into the room, the lights fade to blackness. Not “theatre” blackness; exit signs still visible and faint blue light creeping out from backstage. Actual blackness. The sensation of being completely blind, in silence, is particularly eerie given you are already aware there are at least twenty other people very, very close to you.

This unnerving feeling was best captured by the recital of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven. An unsettling piece on its own, I’ve never wanted a nightlight so badly. The ghost stories were well balanced with sea shanties and Irish folk songs, set to the beautiful music of cellist Rachel Bruerville. Some stories ran together a little more than was helpful but this was a minor pacing issue.

Stories in the Dark is in an exciting position. It is a gentle, simple and charming piece which feels as though it could go one of two ways; either a ready-made, stand-alone show for the festival circuit or a first step in a development towards a deeper exploration of light and shadow. Either way, in the mess and noise of Fringe, this is a much-needed moment of stillness.

Find tickets here.