Eldritch Theatre’s charming puppetry delves into darkness for Toronto audiences
Over the past few months I’ve been on a horror binge, and I’ve often found myself thinking that it’s a shame we don’t see the genre in the theatre very often. So you can imagine how excited I was to have the opportunity to review The Harrowing of Brimstone McReedy, being put on by Eldritch Theatre at the Red Sandcastle Theatre.
I don’t usually get my hopes up for shows I’m reviewing, and I was nervous going into The Harrowing, thinking that maybe I’d jinxed it. But I am so pleased to say that this production was every bit as fun as I hoped it would be.
When you walk into the tiny Red Sandcastle Theatre, you’re greeted by the producer Adrianna Prosser. She’s totally in character (and she’s not even in the show), so from the moment you enter the venue, you’ll find yourself completely immersed in this play’s atmosphere. The show’s creator and sole performer, Erich Woolfe, soon joined us as well to schmooze and play games before starting the show.
The story itself didn’t have much depth: a simple, old-timey tale of a troubled young man that sells his soul to the devil. However, I was still impressed by Woolfe’s writing. The choice of words and pacing in the text, combined with his own solid delivery made for some very memorable moments in the play. I enjoyed his descriptions and they felt a bit like something out of Poe. He has a great sense of humour that comes out as well, and I was chuckling throughout the performance.
The show is performed by Woolfe through use of puppets, monologuing, and some fantastic sleight of hand tricks (mostly with cards). He uses his wide range of skills in each of these to captivate the audience and pull them into the Lovecraftian world of Brimstone McReedy.
I wouldn’t say The Harrowing of Brimstone McReedy was particularly frightening, but I did find parts of it to be quite creepy. Woolfe’s usage of his weird little puppets was charming at first, but when these odd little things were put into terrible situations it really managed to subvert my expectations for a “puppet show”. As the play progressed and the tale of Brimstone’s life became sadder, darker, and weirder, I became a tad unnerved.
By performing the show with puppets and using a table as the stage, Eldritch was able to pull off some splendid feats with the tech, the quality of which I don’t usually expect from smaller theatre companies. Silhouettes, flash paper, and some clever projections really elevated this show. They were small in scale, but since the performance space itself is so tiny, they felt big to me and seemed to have a big impact on the audience. Overall, I thought everything on the production side of this show (costumes, tech, set) was fantastic.
All in all, this was a wonderfully fun show and fits perfectly with the Halloween season. I’d definitely recommend seeing it and look forward to whatever Eldritch Theatre does next.
- The Harrowing of Brimstone McReedy is playing at the Red Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen East).
- Performances run until Nov 13, 2016.
- Shows run Tue – Sat at 8:00PM, with 3:00PM matinees on Sun.
- Run time is approximately 1h 30 min.
- Tickets can be purchased at the door or online, and are $25 with additional prices for students, artists, and seniors.
- Contains audience participation.
Photo of Eric Woolfe by Lyon Smith.