The Tell-Tale Heart
The Tell-Tale Heart
© The Lowry

The Tell-Tale Heart is one of Gothic literature's classic stories. Edgar Allan Poe's original tale is a single narrative to the reader, as the unnamed man tries to persuade the reader that he is sane despite having planned and committed the murder of an elderly man.

Here the plot has been updated to the present, with the man in a mental hospital and in a session with one of the doctors.

The show is cleverly done, with performer Laurence Saunders taking the role of the man re-enacting the story of what he has done while in a mostly bare room with just a chair to use for a prop. His is a powerful performance and swings between mania and near sanity with conviction.

He tells of how he gave up nursing because he began to hear sounds which are normally too quiet for the human ear, and began working as a nurse to an elderly man. But still the sounds around him drive him insane, leading him to the final act of desperation.

It is sound artist Iain Armstrong's audio effects though which make the performance. Set up on stage and many performed alongside the physical action rather than being recorded, it is both fascinating and incredibly skilled. Armstrong also fulfils the role of the doctor listening to the man's descriptions.

Edgar Allan Poe is a brilliant writer and his story survives the updated adaptation very well. Unfortunately, the show has too many lulls in its pace, meaning that audience interest can wane as well at times. But overall this is a worthy re-telling of a dark and gruesome tale.

- Helen Jones