SHOW: House of Usher
DIRECTOR: Christopher Weare
CAST: Andrew Laubscher, Gideon Lombard, Mikkie-Dene Le Roux
VENUE: The Little Theatre at UCT’s Hiddingh Campus on 37 Orange Street, Gardens until June 16
REVIEW: PETER TROMP
The press release for ‘The House Of Usher’ declares that Chris Weare has an enduring obsession with the lifestyles of rock stars and in particular the world of excess they often inhabit. We saw this in ‘Cowboy Mouth’ three years ago, a flawed production of a kind of lame Sam Shepard play, but one that resounded with life.
I always enjoy watching a creator indulge in a topic very close to their heart, because that way we get a truer sense of their chief creative concerns, but sometimes that can get stretched too far.
This incarnation of ‘The House Of Usher’ is such production, one that feels as if it may have been more interesting in the head of its creator than the executed product actually is.
The sense of almost otherworldly dread that the play (it has been adapted from Edgar Allen Poe’s short story ‘The Fall Of The House Of Usher’) tries to convey feels vivid enough; you can almost feel your bones starting to chill while watching it.
The fabric of the play – the actual words and the interactions between the players, feels choppy and ultimately unconvincing, though.
As the press release says, “‘House of Usher’ is concerned with the confrontation between order and chaos, between hope and despair, between love and hate and between success and failure.” That is a very wide spectrum of concerns, and very little of it is communicated in any satisfactory way.
I suspect the rehearsal time for the show must have been short as well, because none of the actors turn in fully realised performances.
Andrew Laubscher, who plays the most complex character, former rock star Roderick Usher, who used to be the leading man of rock band The House of Usher, is fascinating, as always, but I felt unsure as to what his character’s anguished decay in the play actually alluded to. Is it merely the result of Roderick’s creative frustration at knowing his peak years were behind him?
Is it simply the result of substance abuse on his part? Is it the outward strains of the familial curse that he believes hangs over him and his sister?
Or is he simply the main vehicle for the inherent “gothicness” of the story? The play never satisfactorily explores any of these possibilities.
This portrait of the rock star as decaying specimen just fails to convince.
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