Review: The Black Cat (Threedumb Theatre)

Threedumb Theatre have made their digital presentation of a March 2021 show recorded at The Space available once more to enjoy until 6 November.

Stephen Smith (and Michsela Bennison, briefly) play in The Black Cat, Edgar Allen Poe’s creepy Gothic horror tale, and a gallows sets the creepy scene in which our chronicler finds himself confined.

As our narrator relates his terrifying tale, the filming (by David Smith, directed by Stephen Smith), sometimes speeded up or slowed, or slightly off-focus, and sound effects build the tension and feeling of unease.

Production shot of The Black Cat

As his love for pets and animals inexplicably turns to hate, anger, and abuse, the black cat of the title has a terrible twist in store.

A deeply physical, intense, central performance and inventive mime bring this disturbing chronicle to life, in a cavernous and largely empty space. A venue empty of audience may lack real-time reaction, but not atmosphere.

Threedumb’s version stays very close to Poe’s original story, unlike the Hollywood films which had a cat but little else in common. Here it is man, wife, cat, revenge, and the fate of all.

The sense of a black cat as unlucky or a ‘witch in disguise’ threads throughout this story, as Smith’s character chats to the camera and we follow him on his peevish course.

Production photo of The Bkack Cat

At just fifty-four minutes, The Black Cat relies on how it can build a sense of dread and horror with its writing and effects. Both are exemplary. Not simply a monologue, this is a film of shivers and shudders.

The Space, being an old place of worship, has windows which hint at the path to religious redemption, or the road to hell. Every area is used brilliantly to give the sense of cell or castle.

You can watch The Black Cat until 6 November via The Space – tickets here