The association between the estate of writer Mervyn Peake (1911-68) and the Blue Elephant has been a fruitful one, resulting in previously lauded productions of The Cave and Noah’s Ark. As the title might suggest, Boy In Darkness is much more sinister in tone and tells of a privileged teenage boy, who escapes the confines of his castle at night to discover a nightmare world beyond.
This adaptation, written and performed as a solo piece by Gareth Murphy, captures the near-Gothic horror of the original, echoing the haunting imagery of Peake’s prose with Murphy’s succinct narrative acting style. The venue has been re-shaped for a thrust stage and Murphy utilises the simple space effectively, while Martin Thomas’ girder and timber set offers ledges to hang from and shadows to hide in.
Murphy is a charismatic performer, blending strongly delineated characterisation with an acrobatic physical theatre style. The initial fear perceived by the Boy seems justified when faced with the rasping, snarling face of the Hyena or the overwhelming majesty of the Lamb. Those unfamiliar with Peake and his Gormenghast novels may find the story heavy going and lacking a solid conclusion but Murphy’s adaptation is a physical theatre gem.
Dates: March 11-April 4, PN March 13