“A well told story lays the human soul bare.” The closing words of Mr Poe’s Legendarium make an excellent point; it’s just a pity that no one seems to have heeded them. In the show’s billing for the 2015 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Clown Funeral promises a “deliciously dark, sumptuously savage horror extravaganza.” Well, of course. What else is to be expected from one of the most beloved and most revered Gothic horror writers of all time?
What follows, however, is not so much a spooky and suspenseful thrill-ride but a strange series of semi-comical sketches, presenting tales that are, at best, only loosely connected to Edgar Allan Poe’s works. Poe himself serves as the narrator, guiding the audience through this trio of tales. Strangely, his storytelling companion is – of all people – Professor Sigmund Freud. Forgetting for a moment that these two men were not even alive at the same time, Freud’s sole purpose in Mr Poe’s Legendarium is, seemingly, to point out how Poe’s ghost stories are projections of his own fears and insecurities. While this is done in a way that injects some lighter humour to counter-balance the horror of each story (cue token Oedipus-complex jokes), the absence of said horror leaves the humour verging on slapstick.
The sketches themselves in Mr Poe’s Legendarium do make some fine use of ambient music and a minimalist stage set, with the cast playing fairly well off one another, and even double up as their own props at times. Had the storylines given the company enough material to generate more dark drama and suspense, then they could possibly get more gasps than laughs out of the audience. That being said, there is only so much spine-tingling horror that can come from a story about chain letters.
The inescapable flaw in Mr Poe’s Legendarium is that the audience naturally expects to spend much of the performance on the edge of their seats, gripped with terror and excitement – even if they already know how the gruesome tale ends. While there are a few good laughs to be had from watching this show, they go against the grain of audience expectations. If it’s terrifying tales of pits, pendulums and murder most foul that tempts viewers towards Mr Poe’s Legendarium, it is unlikely to inspire ‘raven’ reviews.
Mr Poe’s Legendarium is available to watch on Youtube here