Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Edd McCracken - Fest Mag
Published:14 August 2011
5 stars *****
Something peculiar strikes as we're lying in makeshift beds in an old medical school. Somewhere between listening to a disembodied child's voice recite a creepy nursery rhyme and the entrance of a man who stalks between the vulnerable audience members with the calmness of a graveyard, a thrill ripples through the room: only dark and dream-like possibilities await.
What Remains has been a long held dream for horror film fan and Grid Iron co-Artistic Director, Ben Harrison. Together with composer and singer David Paul Jones, they have finally realised their dark fantasies.
Jones plays The Maestro. An obsessive pianist, he greets the audience at the start of its promenade around the University of Edinburgh's medical school and anatomy museum. He plays a complex, beautiful piece on the grand piano. It leaves musical clues of what awaits and nursery rhyme idyll is interrupted by terrifying dissonance.
As the macabre ratchets up, What Remains explores the idea that music can create madness as well as joy. But this is not a slasher horror. There is nothing that goes bump in the night. Rather it creeps under the skin by pulling gauze over the audience's eyes alongside weird piano lessons and ringing phones.
Like all horror films, it succumbs to a bout of silliness towards the end. A talking piano means it does not quite hold its creepy nerve. But with great use of the medical school's eerie spaces, dark corridors and Gothic skeletons, combined with a chilling soundtrack, What Remains certainly stays with you.
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Neil Cooper - The Herald
Published: 8 August 2011
4 stars ****
Site-specific magicians Grid Iron take us off-site and into the shadows of Edinburgh University Medical School’s Anatomy Department for What Remains, a darkly camp piece of musical grand guignol that’s part installation, part psycho-killer case study. At the heart of this is composer David Paul Jones, who introduces us to his alter ego Gilbert K Prendergast with a solo piano recital that flits from sentimental syrup to modernist discordia and back again in an instant.
It’s an interesting pointer to Gilbert’s mind as we’re led on a tour of this maestro’s inner sanctum with the amplified and disembodied voice of Gilbert himself as guide.
Slowly what emerges is a portrait of a piano teacher who demands perfection from his students, but who is himself damaged to the point of psychosis by his own experience. As the audience are divided between rooms, the detritus of Gilbert’s life, the human remains, are laid out like specimens, so it becomes part interactive museum, part asylum. The combined effect in Ben Harrison’s production is part Dr Phibes, part Legend Of Hell House and part The 5000 Fingers Of Dr T.
As Jones ducks in and out of view, at one point crooning an Antony And The Johnsons’ song from atop a stairwell while sporting a mask and white robes, the show’s grimly fiendish use of space throws light and shade on some of the Medical School’s genuine exhibits. It’s a slight but deliciously delivered affair, which, judging by the state of poor Gilbert, might just make pushy parents think twice about sending their own little prodigies out to learn how to tinkle the ivories.