Legendarium—a ‘vaudeville maze of haunted sagas’, a ‘sumptously savage’ experience—the blurb for Mr Poe promises a great deal, but doesn’t quite deliver. What we have instead, are three fairly solid Gothic stories, interspersed with Freudian analysis, in a comically bad German accent. It doesn’t set the stage alight, but it’s a solid, diverting fifty minutes, and has clearly been made with love.
What works well is the sense of creepiness, that feeling of something crawling across your skin, especially in the second and third tales. The well-chosen soundtrack does a lot of the work here, but the cast also play a central part. In addition to the characters portrayed, they take on the mantle of the set, transforming themselves into mausoleums, portraits or corpses, as the occasion demands. This works well when hidden ghouls drag protagonists to their fate, as the stage transforms into an orgy of hands, limbs and shrieks. Less successful are the occasions where one would be hard pushed to say what is being impersonated.
Character-wise, it’s a little uneven. Some give the impression of back-stories and inner lives, while others have little to offer. The chemistry between Poe and Freud is best, and their discussions on what stories are for—what they represent, if anything—are witty, and their bickering full of barbs. It’s a shame there aren’t more visits from history: Jung, or perhaps Nietzsche, would have worked well. They might uplift the show’s enjoyable present into a more dazzling future.