Writer & Performer: David Crawford
Reviewer: James Napleton
Edgar Allen Poe is returning home from his doctor, muttering and shrieking as he walks through the door. He has escaped, temporarily, from whatever was assailing him in the dark night.
Having calmed down, Poe investigates his walking cane only to realise he has accidentally brought his doctors’ instead of his own. He turns the handle, which in turn clicks to reveal a thin dagger hidden in the body of the cane. The dagger is exemplary of Poe’s mental state: he is hopelessly paranoid, recalling out old enemies that might be out to hurt him, while the dagger also provides comfort as he attempts to fend off these psychological demons.
Poe’s Last Night is a powerful performance that incorporates the mystery and suspense that was a key feature of the author’s work. Crawford’s Poe is animated almost frantic in his storytelling as we experience his last night. He really breathes life into the historical figure of Poe and draws from a wide repertoire of acting skills. The performance is very engaging as Poe drifts through time, often getting lost in his memories as he is retelling old stories and then snapping back to the present and his worries return. He often breaks out of this cycle by reciting some of his own poetry.
Crawford’s renditions of Poe’s work, particularly The Raven, are powerful and stirring. He has mastered the complex rhythms of employed by Poe in The Raven and brings the poem to life, as the deteriorating protagonist seems to almost believe that a spectral raven is visiting him. This performance also creates an interesting new reflection on the poem itself as its dying creator reads it aloud.
The final moments of the play are stark, as Poe finishes his recitation of The Raven the powerful final images are suggestive of the author’s own end. Overall, Poe’s Last Night is a thrilling and entertaining performance.
Runs 16-17, 19, 20 May at The Rialto Theatre | Image: Contributed
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