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The House Of Usher at The Hope Theatre – Review

The House of Usher castThe evening started so well. As the audience entered the fifty seater auditorium, eerie music was playing, the walls were painted black and the three actors sat very still in three corners of the room – the stage was literally set for The House Of Usher – “The new gothic musical thriller”– spine tingling stuff!

However, it was downhill all the way after that as this dog’s dinner of a musical played out over the next two hours plus! Using Edgar Alan Poe’s short story “The Fall Of The House Of Usher” as its starting point but incorporating bits of the same author’s narrative poem “The Raven”, it made for a long evening that seemed to drag on interminably.

The dialogue rambled on and on not always making a lot of sense interspersed by some very ordinary, highly derivative songs. There were songs that had a touch of Lloyd Webber, some sub Les Miserables, a bit of Rocky Horror Show, some pseudo Gilbert & Sullivan – which meant that there was no cohesive style to the music. Some of the songs seemed to go on for ages and there were times when I wanted them to stop singing and get on with the plot – however flimsy and incoherent it was.

There was also a big problem with the tone of the piece. On the whole, it was deadly serious but occasionally, there was a bit of silliness such as when two of the characters sat amongst the audience and interacted with them – it just jarred with the atmosphere that had been set-up. Also whilst one of the characters was dressed in modern steampunk leather, the other two wore normal costumes of the period which also jarred somewhat.

The three actors, Richard Lounds as “Narrator”, Cameron Harle as “Roderick Usher” and Eloise Kay as “Madeline Usher” coped manfully with the difficult and often clunky dialogue whilst playing their instruments – Lounds on cello, Harle on guitar and Kay on Saxophone and clarinet, ably backed by musical director Rob Gathercole on keyboards. Special mention must go to Sound Designer Matthew Williams whose superb soundscape gave the piece an atmosphere throughout that deserved a better setting.

On the whole a really disappointing evening. I’m all for encouraging memorable, new British musicals written by young, up and coming writers and composers but unfortunately The House Of Usher won’t linger in the memory for very long. As one of the characters said, “What am I doing here?” – unfortunately for most of the show, I had to agree with him.

1 star

Review by Alan Fitter

The brand new gothic musical thriller
“What was it—I paused to think—what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher?” 

The Ushers are an ancient and noble line, known for a number of things; repeated deeds of charity, a passionate devotion to the intricacies of musical science and a collection of many works of exalted art. What is not generally known is that they are plagued by an ancient family evil, a curse.

This curse is causing Roderick Usher to be ill, sensitive to light and sound and unable to step outside the doors of his house. He calls upon his old childhood friend for help. When the friend arrives he finds himself becoming more and more involved and falling deeper and deeper into the dark tangled web that is The House of Usher.

Secrets surface, friendships are tested and a dark secret threatens to bring the House of Usher crashing down.

Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s gothic masterpiece “The Fall of The House of Usher” with a brand new score and a small cast of exceptional actor-musicians this gothic musical thriller promises to be the Halloween show not to miss.
All shall fall.

The House of Usher
Part of our GOTHIC SEASON; Autumn/Winter 2016
18 Oct – 5 Nov 2016
7.45pm Tues to Sat

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