Theatre Review: Dark Tales at Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Frights a plenty with a trio of ghostly plays in this debut production

Initially a mixed bag, Dark Tales is much stronger in the second half.

This is Ian Breed’s first professional foray into writing and directing and says he is aiming to explore how to “scare” a modern audience.

The concept is interesting and as a starting point this production provides plenty of material which could be further developed.

The first act comprises two short plays, almost sketches and a spooky story.

Unfortunately the first, Bloody Mary, is worryingly predictable.

However, credit to the actors and direction as they built the suspense to genuinely make the audience jump at key points even though we all knew what was coming.

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The second, Unsound Mind, provided an interesting twist at the end but slightly banal dialogue and a lack of tightly drawn characterisation left me feeling there was an unlocked potential, which would benefit from a longer and fuller treatment.

The Evacuee in Act Two was the highlight.

A much more rounded piece, it created an undercurrent of tension and increasing curiosity, and the final resolution was almost worthy of the cult 1980’s TV series, Tales of the Unexpected.

Monique Cunningham turned in a fine and convincing performance as the little girl from London in the Blitz foisted on the grumpy George who was hiding his own dark secret.

Her physicality was spot on in an honest, open and engaging portrayal.

Overall an entertaining evening showing the scope for this type of work, which the company will hopefully take on to its next stage.

* Dark Tales is showing at Upstairs at the Gatehouse, in North Road, N6, until September 11