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The Fall of the House of Usher review at Lyric Theatre, Belfast – ‘fearlessly theatrical’

Tony Flynn in The Fall of the House of Usher at Lyric Theatre, Belfast. Photo: Matthew Cavan
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Conor Mitchell’s work is unpredictable and fearlessly theatrical. That’s what makes it so exhilarating. In The Fall of the House of Usher, Edgar Allan Poe’s tale of the supernatural provides a natural springboard into his boundless imagination and artistic risk-taking.

This is no mere adaptation of a literary classic but an all-encompassing stage installation, which transforms Poe’s haunting story of disintegration and otherworldly terror into a heavily stylised, multi-layered piece of music theatre.

With his whitened face and stiff bearing, Tony Flynn bears a striking resemblance to Robert Wilson’s Krapp. On his arrival home, he is absorbed into Els Borghart and Declan Kelly’s fragmented, abstract set whose lopsided doorways and window frames invoke a once-grand house, now falling apart as its occupants die away.

As his lines are delivered entirely in voice-over, he relies on sharply honed physicality in his embodiment of Usher, the only son of an only son, the final survivor of a wealthy but dysfunctional dynasty.

Moving with a balletic grace, Flynn’s gaunt face and glittering eyes bear witness to a lifetime of troubled relationships, most notably with his violent parents and damaged, recently deceased twin sister, played by Abigail McGibbon with a mixture of steel and sweetness. Matthew Cavan, arched of back and arch of expression, is the all-seeing servant, exuding a suppressed love for his master.

Against Mitchell’s clashing, sharply played score and lush text, Simon Bird and Gavin Peden’s lighting and video effects propel Usher’s fall into and out of a semi-darkness haunted by shadowy projections, prismatic flashes and dancing numerical puzzles.

The Doppler Effect review at Lyric Theatre, Belfast – ‘delivered with panache and theatrical daring’

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Verdict
The Belfast Ensemble presents a subversive new take on Poe's classic story
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