Review – Goblin’s Story

Nov 24 2013 | By More

★★★☆☆    Winsome and frabjous

The Vault: Tue 19 – Sun 24 November 2013
Review by Thom Dibdin

Clever and articulate, Laura Witz’s creation of a back-story for Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market makes for a quirky and satisfying hour of theatre.

Witz’s intention is not to bring out the deeper meanings of the poem itself, but to examine the flip-side of the poem’s villains, the goblins. And to help her, she brings in some of the 19th century’s most recognised poetry creations.

Cutty Sark (Izzy Hourihane), Ancient Mariner (Thomas Edward) and Jaberwocky (Grace Knight) are not impressed with Goblin (James Beagon)'s goblin pals in Goblin's Story. Photo © Charlotte Productions

Cutty Sark (Izzy Hourihane), Ancient Mariner (Thomas Edward), Jaberwocky (Grace Knight) and Goblin (James Beagon). Photo © Charlotte Productions

In the small, confined space of The Vault on Merchant Street, she creates a world where goblins are not the only ones to howl. Here it is, we learn, that vorpal blades go snicker snack, slimy things do crawl with legs upon the slimy sea, and old grey mares are apt to lose their tails.

Rossetti’s poem still holds the main attraction though. It is a tale of a haunted glen where goblins seduce maidens to sell them fruit in exchange for a token payment, But, once the delicious fruit is tasted, the hideous creatures disappear, leaving the girl to pine for more until she wastes away.

Witz  sets this up in delightfully simplistic style with James Beagon as Goblin – that’s his family name – the boring accountant for the rest of the goblins. In a naive and open performance, Beagon creates a sympathetic creature who just wants to sit around in his corner of the forest and read the paper.

Turmoil arrives for Goblin with the arrival of a trio of strangers in quick succession.

The first, is a chipper, vivacious girl, played by Grace Knight, whose first act on stage is to make friends with the surrounding trees. Disconcertingly, she turns out to be Lewis Carol’s Jabberwocky – and about as far from Tenniel’s scaly, long-necked image of the creature you could want.

A sense of humanity for the missunderstood bad guys

Thomas Edward makes for a lanky, lugubrious version of the mariner from Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, constantly trying to recite his tale of albatross killing. While Izzy Hourihane is a forceful, independent-minded Cutty Sark, ready to stick up for the oppressed – but rather more demurely attired than described by Burns in Tam o’Shanter.

While the three newcomers hang around and argue over what they should be doing to try and save the girls from the goblins, the ravening hoard – led by the imposing Rory Kelly as the chief goblin Nurgle – keep coming back determined that Goblin is hiding something.

There’s a nice tension here between the perception of the beings as created in their respective poems and their characters as envisioned by Witz. Not enough to really get to grips with the various debated meanings of the Rossetti poem, but enough to begin to do so for those who are familiar with it.

But although there is plenty of extra meat here for those who know some or all of the source poems, familiarity is not a prerequisite for satisfaction. The play still stands on its own, comprehensible without any prior knowledge.

And what Witz does excellently is create a sense of humanity for the missunderstood bad guys, as Jabberwocky insists on describing them. It is there in her script, which is punched full with wit. But it is even more evident in her sympathetic staging, which seems to say that the fruit of Rossetti’s proto-feminist tale – for us today – is a world where redemption is possible for those on all different sides.

Running time 1 hr
Run ends Sunday 24 November 2013
Daily, 7.30pm.
The Vault, 11 Merchant Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2QD
Charlotte Productions:


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.