Becquer’s Legends

Aug 9 2022 | By More

★★★☆☆     Lingering frights

Paradise in the Vault (Venue 29): Fri 5 – Sat 13 August 2022
Review by Thom Dibdin

Becquer’s Legends would perhaps be best suited to a Halloween telling, but Crested Fools nevertheless succeed in finding the chill of these spooky offerings in the sauna-like venue of Paradise in the Vault.

Daniel Orejon translates and adapts two of Spanish romantic author Gustavo Adolfo Becquer’s legends – the story of The Green Eyes and The Mount of Souls. He rolls them neatly into an hour, even though there is little to connect the two thematically, apart from their oogliness.

Sophie Harris and Daniel Orejon. Pic Molly Wilders/Jon Mannion.

Orejon and Sophie Harris deliver the stories clothed in the kind of white nightwear that could signify ghostly apparition as much as children lost in their nightmares. There is a slightly demented air to them both – children on the edge of fear, pushing each other to greater fright.

Orejon’s direction is clever and effective as they immerse themselves in the telling, without note of conventional gender and often against it to intriguing effect as it reinforces the ghostly nature of their tales.

The Green Eyes concerns a young master of the house, a young man of the class who spend their days hunting in the forests. He arrives late to the hunt, which is pursing a stag – the largest and finest of his short life.

But when the hunt falters as the mortally wounded beast enters a poplar grove, he continues, against the advise of his master huntsman and hand servant.

In The Mount of Souls, a pair of young cousins are flirting, each aware of their future apart. She urges him to seek out a lost scarf in the place to which no person will go, just as the bells toll out on All Souls night.

intense descriptive details

Orejon and Harris conjure up each scenario with intense descriptive details, never precise enough to impinge on their listener’s imaginations; loose enough to let them fly.

Heather Milne’s lights and sound add mightily to the effect. Never overbearing but supporting the telling, with bells and darkness in precisely the right places.

The pair relate the tales in such a way as there always seems a way back for the protagonists, but sees them step willingly to their fate. It is remarkably effective.

Once there, however, the drive and pace of the pieces, which was previously near perfect, fails to linger as it might, rushing to the finale. An external pair of eyes might help, while a slight change of emphasis could take help place the tellers, if not their tales, in a more appropriate time of year.

This is splendidly scary stuff, told in such a way as to linger thrillingly in the memory. Not one to take the children to.

Running time: One hour (no interval)
Paradise in the Vault (The Vault) 11 Merchant Street, EH1 2QD (Venue 29)
Friday 5 – Saturday 13 August 2022
Daily: 21:05.
Tickets and details: Book here.


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