The Other Realm Theatre Company have created truly creepy piece of theatre that stayed with me long after curtain call. With a bit more pace in the delivery and some restructuring of the script, it could become a brilliant example of on-stage horror.
The set was very effective. Pickman’s studio, the Old Town of Boston, and Thurber’s home were very distinct from each other despite the limited stage space. The paintings were intriguing from the beginning, especially the covered canvases.
Dave Lee gave a fantastic performance of the disturbed Thurber, who relayed the entire story via his telephone and breakaway scenes. His resonant voice and weighty stage presence brought a class to the play, and he displayed the morbid fascination with Pickman’s grotesque paintings very effectively.
Pickman himself was played by Anthony Arundell, and his performance was effectively strange. His intense fascination with his own work was palpable, though he does need to work on his American accent to fully convince the audience.
The play could have had a few more scenes between Pickman and Thurber, rather than having the latter dictate the story to us. Some of the scenes were genuinely disturbing, as was Thurber’s discovery of the photographic revelation later in the play. The image of Thurber cowing on the floor in horror was one I found very difficult to shake.
Horror on stage doesn’t always work, but Other Realm have generated some genuine shocks. With a little more pace between the two leads, and perhaps a dash of humour, Pickman’s model has the potential to be the gothic piece it wants to be.