Very Still and Hard to See

A bare blank stage in the basement of an old church marked only by a chalk circle drawn on the floor is the setting for this eerie production from BeLTheatre, a tale which unfolds in seven parts spanning decades in the life and many deaths of an unnamed hotel, unquiet spirits lurking within the walls and the rooms. Clad in rags and murmuring, they infect the space and haunt the rooms, but first make themselves known in the form of an Obake, taking the form of an elegantly dressed woman who challenges Buck Mason, the architect whose work has awoken her.

She offers him a choice; she can kill him then and there, or he can accede to her request to redesign the hotel so it falls directly above her haunt, and in return she will grant him his wish, the overlapping voices of the spirits hissing his dread desires to him, though she still warns him the next time she becomes visible to him, he will die.

And so it goes; in Dreadful Parlour Games, when three arguing friends take a room in the hotel, in Bleach and Other Household Cleaners, as a married couple who once honeymooned in the hotel still carry the nightmares, the moments of possession are effective and sinister.

Victim of An Unfortunate Storm-Related Mishap, Pauline Armour is excellent as the unnamed wife of an American businessman who stayed in the hotel the night the wind blew so hard the rain was going sideways, the night the windows blew in and washed away the blood. Told with cheery detachment, she alone has no regrets about her stay.

Utterly different but similarly powerful is of Fiona Cullen as Ginger, a fragile beauty whose every mistake is catalogued by the two Shikigami who follow her in her search for true love in Hearts & Flowers. On her four hundred and seventy sixth blind date, Violet could finally be the girl, but will Ginger be able to control herself?

A Personal Account of the Renovation is brief and claustrophobic, as the hotel deteriorates, the sparse lighting pushing the damaged characters further back into the recesses of the elevator, the aging building crying to be torn down rather than restored.

Coming full circle we return Above Ground to meet the granddaughter of the architect and her husband as they wait for sunset, David angry at Simone for her continued inability to face a day without chemical support, not realising what has driven her to be this way, nor that as the day ends both she and the Obake will be released.

Directed by Dan Armour from a script by Steve Yockey, despite the Japanese inspirations, other than some hints on the soundtrack, the acting style is disappointingly western and the performances are variable; Kyle Cluett and Tamsin Fellowes are both better in their roles as Shikigami than residents, Julie Binysh looks impressive as the Obake, but over burdened with exposition and scene setting she cannot help but be conversational rather than mysterious and menacing, though Alison Green brings the show to a satisfying close as the triumphant Simone.

Very Still and Hard to See runs until 24th August

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