Lurking in the dark depths of the Merlyn Theatre a tale of suspense, murder and madness is waiting to unfold.
A man – a murderer – sits alone upon a staircase, pursued by shadows, weeping darkness and throwing up demons. If at first he seems a mass of neuroses, his tics and spasms the symptoms of a terrible guilt, soon enough he is revealed as the dark soul of our age and, eventually, of the state of a theatre trembling on the edge of obsession and madness.
The Tell-Tale Heart is based on the classic short story by Edgar Allan Poe, a writer whose legacy haunts the shelves of our greatest modern literature. He is credited with the creation of the detective genre, but is better known for his macabre tales of murder and grisly retribution. The tale is an extravagant psychological portrait ruminating in black comedy and the macabre.
In 2007 Barrie Kosky created a thrilling, horrifying yet engrossing voyage into the morbid and fascinating world of the “Master of Horror” with Austrian actor, and angelic singer, Martin Niedermair. The performance, sharpened to steely perfection, was a hit of the Melbourne International Arts Festival. Since then it has toured to the Edinburgh International Festival and Sydney Festival. Playing only 10 performances in its original Melbourne season Malthouse were besieged with requests for its return and so it has as the final production in Michael Kantor’s artistic programming for the Malthouse.
Kosky’s vision is part play/part musical and is a dubbed as a monologue that journeys into the human abyss of insanity, fear and obsession.. Kosky says he relates "wholeheartedly" to Edgar Allan Poe. Poe’s aesthetic, Kosky believes, mirrors his own artistic yearnings. The mystery, the macabre, the “morbid eroticism” are mainstays of Kosky’s acquired form of confrontational theatre. Key to the success of this one man soliloquy is the merging of Kosky and Austrian actor Martin Niedermair who comments on Kosky’s vision and work:
"There’s always an eroticism about Barrie’s work. Poppea was naked, erotic and raw. By comparison the Poe is tame, but even though there’s no nudity and no explicit sexual references, the eroticism is very much implied. I mean, you can never really believe Barrie, what he really thinks but I think he was turned on by the darkness of it – and the humanity at the same time. For example, you know those tortured figures in Francis Bacon’s work? He tried to bring a bit of the Bacon paintings into the show, quite physically."
Neidermair has a sensational voice which is an integral part of Kosky’s script and story. Woven into the piece are baroque musical interludes which both suit and showcase Neidermair. and Kosky’s vision.
“All theatre should be focussed on the actor. I think every decision should come from what the actor does or needs,” says Kosky. Martin’s voice is connected to his body and his body is connected to his soul.”
Niedermair says English-speaking audiences immediately pick up on the elements of black humour in the work, which German audiences often miss.
"It’s very interesting, the different dynamic that the piece has in German and in English," he says. "In all Poe’s blackness and ghoulishness, there’s always humour somewhere. In Australia they saw it. Perhaps it comes through in the original language, or maybe they’re used to Edgar Allen Poe and a central European audience isn’t."
Is it a dream or is it real? Niedermair elaborates: "There’s always the possibility that the whole thing happens in the guy’s head, anyway. Did he really kill that person, or is he talking about killing himself or his inner child, or the fears he has of death? That’s what attracted me to the story. It could be so many things."
‘This is Poe, rendered naked, stripped of the rags of gothic melodrama and it is a terrifying vision!’
Season: November 19 – December 2 (no matinees)
Phone: 9685 5111
Tickets: $23 – $49