A glorious extravaganza of Gothic gore

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 February, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 February, 1996, 12:00am

IN Turgid Tales of Turmoil, Terror and Tortured Souls, Giles Davis invited us to face the dark forces within us through the medium of the one-man show.

Of course, we face these forces every time we open a newspaper and are confronted with reports on such horrors as ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, genocide in Rwanda, and even this newspaper's court reports.

This was a very literary evening. Davies delivered a medley of nine set pieces, mainly from the classics, and performed in an accomplished, high-acting style.

The pre-interval section of the show began with a half-hour compression of Macbeth, progressed to dramatic renditions of three dark poems, and ended with a gory gobbet from Shelley's Frankenstein.

The Macbeth was fascinating, with Davies slipping eerily between Macbeth and a mesmerising Lady Macbeth, a wonderful reminder of how - as in Shakespeare's time - it is perfectly acceptable for a man to play a complex female role to great effect.

All the poems were done well, the best being Vernon Scannell's home-alone piece about a boy who murders his cat. The Shelley was delicious, unabashed, eye-flaring Gothic as Davies, with lab coat and white marigolds, lifted a bloody heart from a silvery bucket.

In the second half, he was obliged to become progressively more hysterical to hit the high notes of horror which each successive set-piece demanded.

He really began to lose it when Old Nick, Nick Leeson of Barings that is, was invoked as a dark force. This invocation came in the introduction to an over-the-top piece about Native American witches. Stories of tossing beheaded babies into cauldrons, by this time, failed to shock - the audience was horror-fatigued.

The final piece was an awkward mix of theatrical genres as Davies lurched from a Victorian mode of dramatic rendition to a Jim Morrison-style poetic diatribe he wrote himself. It is dangerous to put one's scribblings alongside those of the masters.

The show could do with pruning: fewer set-pieces and with some pieces more developed. This, plus dropping the incongruous New Age message, would make for a spanking-good night of Gothic theatre in a fine, old thespian style. Turgid Tales of Turmoil, Terror and Tortured Souls, Fringe Club, January 30