Æ Review – The Edge of Darkness

Nov 18 2010 | By More

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The Makars in The Edge of Darkness. Photo Martin Burnell

St Bride’s Centre

By Thom Dibdin

There is a quick, bright undertow to the Edinburgh Makars production of Brian Clemens’ psychological drama, The Edge of Darkness, which is set in a remote, cliff-side house in the early 20th century.

This is largely thanks to Susan Robertson as Penny, the young housekeeper who has only ever been a maid before and is stepping up to take charge of a house for the first time. In a performance which always goes with a zing, Robertson conveys the needy desperation to please of one who is both unsure of herself and determined to do everything right.

Its a necessarily strong counterbalance to her mysterious employers, Max and Laura Cranwell. They are given a determinedly lugubrious feel by Danny Henderson and Anne Trotter, as if they were swimming through the production, not quite sure of their surroundings or where they were going.

Well they might, for the Cranwells are living in uncharted waters as they return to the house with their long-lost daughter, Emma. Given a good sense of befuddlement by Emma Needs, the young woman has been found suffering from amnesia after disappearing suddenly three years before.

Penny’s work is helped by the manservant Hardy. Played by Ali MacDougall, who starts off rather hesitantly, but soon comes to dominate the stage, he is clearly not quite what he seems. MacDougall is slick enough to leave you  wondering whether this is down to Hardy’s years spent travelling the world or he has rather more nefarious motives.

In a production which makes good use of the wide open stage of the St Brides Centre, the tension is soon beginning to mount. Although it more of a questioning sense of being not sure what is going on.

Margaret Milne’s direction needs to be a bit stronger. There are items of business and reveals that become crucial to later developments of the plot that are scampered over, when they could afford to be relished just a bit more, without drawing too much attention to them and sign posting the twists.

More to the point, Henderson and Trotter need to create much more with their characters. There’s no real sense of who they are, or where they have come from, although Needs is excellent at finding some of the complexities of a 23 year-old woman who finds herself living with her parents but without any recollection of their previous lives together.

As a result, all the potentials of the script are lost in a production which plays out in front of its audience when it could so easily be drawing them in and thrilling them with the twists and turns.

Worst served by this is Dario Dalla Costa who has the invidious task of breathing some kind of life into the supposedly mysterious Livago. By the time of Livago’s arrival, however, no matter how much Dalla Costa put into his performance, he could only ever be a plotting device rather than a character influencing the audience’s emotional involvement in the production.

Run ends Saturday 13 November

Makars Website


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