The Edinburgh Fringe conjures up one fundamental emotion for most of us: humour. For some, it pries open the door for social satire or comment; for others, it provides a way to work in some more Brexit jokes (because we’re not tired of those at all).
For those gleeful little sadists in us all, however, there’s another side to the Fringe in which productions such as Darktales lurk. Tim Arthur has written an elaborate narrative which contains a variety of branching dialogues and plot threads. Genuine moments of dark comedy, mixed with intelligent writing, allows for a production which stands out at the Fringe.
Throughout the performance, the majority of our overarching tale is performed by Andrew Paul playing college lecturer Alex Crowley (extra points for a Crowley reference). Paul portrays a character with such smarmy charm and sympathy that you can’t help become invested within minutes of the show. Darktales’ opening set, in which Paul delivers a monologue to his ‘class’, is the highlight. It’s a gripping yarn, soaked in gothic richness and urban legend, and the entire production feels like a love letter to the works of Poe, Lovecraft and Susan Hill.
A production such as this survives not just on the talents of its performers but the technical precision behind it. The lighting designed by Mike Robertson, in tandem with Simon Slater’s sound design, elevates Darktales into a whole new creative level. The use of live cameras and video feeds help to explain the story, immersing the audience fully. Disorientating lights and ominous sounds surround the venue to snap the audience back to reality when they stray too far into the tales.
Regrettably, Darktales does have flow issues in its mid-section. Up until that point, pacing has been tight and not stretched or forced. But although Sean Ward’s monologue takes a bit too much time to find its footing, it has an intense pay-off worth the slow build.
Consequently, Arthur’s creation is only a few small fixes away from a stage classic of the horror genre. Darktales is a gloriously macabre piece slithering beneath the sea of comedy and a welcome addition to the 2016 Fringe.