A spooky brew of Winnie-the-Pooh and Edgar Allan Poe haunts Toronto theatre audiences
I chose to attend The House at Poe Corner by Eldritch Theatre playing at the Red Sandcastle Theatre because I absolutely love Halloween. I haven’t read all of Edgar Allan Poe’s or H.P Lovecraft’s work, but I know that any play associated with their names was guaranteed to be dark and/or dreary. What better time is there to think of ghosts and your impending doom than Halloween?
The House at Poe Corner is a creative mixture of the works Edgar Allan Poe, H.P Lovecraft, and A.A. Milne. One of those writers is unlike the other! In case you don’t want to click the link, A.A. Milne is the creator of the children’s tales of Winnie-the-Pooh. Playwrights Eric Woolfe and Michael O’Brien managed to combine these works together into a shocking entertaining show. Although, I would not recommend bringing young children to see this. This Winnie-the-Pooh is not as cuddly as you’d expect.
The show began with actors Mike Peterson and Eric Woolfe singing a catchy warble about doom and misery. The two were dressed like Edgar Allen Poes, complete with gaunt makeup, messy hair, and the facial expressions of someone who has been worn down by existential terror. I couldn’t help but laugh at their silent, haggard gaze.
The House at Poe Corner was designed to be a children’s show for a twisted, alternate universe. They used puppets and silly voices for their characters of warped versions of the A.A. Milne family to act out the stories. They sang warbles, which would be called ditties if they weren’t so depressing. The warbles written by Cathy Nosaty are reminiscent of a sing-a-long. They even did magic tricks, which were used to illustrate the murder of a character.
The presentation appears childish, but the show deserves credit for its cleverness. I admired how they could perfectly integrate Winnie-the-Pooh and horror stories together so seamlessly. For instance, the typical character of Owl was portrayed by a raven for the show. The replacement makes sense when the raven shows up in a story to quote Poe’s poem “The Raven”. I audience laughed gleefully and clapped when the famous words “Nevermore” left the puppet’s, or really the actor’s, mouth.
I was overjoyed at every reference I understood. One of the most exciting parts of the play could also be counted as a flaw: if you don’t understand any of the references, you might be a little lost. If you are an avid fan of Edgar Allan Poe, H.P Lovecraft, or gothic horror writing in general, then this show was made for you. If you aren’t aware of the writers or even the style, you’ll have a harder time getting into the show.
But don’t worry — not knowing the gothic culture won’t stop you from enjoying the ridiculousness of hearing a cute little piglet declare that life is a dark and empty abyss. The dark and quirky humour, similar to The Addams Family or Edward Gorey, was well worth the short moments of confusion.
This is the perfect show to get into the Halloween mood. It’s spooky and silly and encourages extracurricular reading. I highly recommend seeing this show.
- The House at Poe Corner is playing at the Red Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen St. East)
- Performances run until November 7th. Tuesday to Saturday shows are at 8:00pm, with a special 10:00pm performance on Saturday October 31st. Matinees at 3:00pm are set for Sunday November 1st and Saturday November 7th.
- Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the door or online.
Photo of Mike Peterson and Eric Woolfe by Jonathan J. Davis