Esmeralda (Maria Masonou) is first seen outside the church, drenched in blood and fleeing from an angry mob who would burn her as a witch – Joseph Furey’s sound design of voices and rage is superb.
She seeks sanctuary, but the church houses a conflicted and corrupt priest, Frollo (Duncan Riches). A celibate, he yearns for this woman and hates her for reminding him he is just a man.
His ward, Quasimodo (Gary Duncan), is not the deaf hunchback of the novel – his problems are more nuanced, and his motivation is much clearer.
Technically outstanding – with just one handheld camera wielded by director Stephen Smith and lighting by Eddie Stephens – and using every shadow and angle of the former church venue, Notre Dame has the frisson of horror and thriller from the start.
The masked figure, Stryga (Lizzie Burder), who appears within sanctuary, acts as narrator (a little loud against the live vocals) and devil’s advocate, a ghostly and grotesque manifestation.
At a brisk hour’s running time, it covers the period from the murder of Phoebus to the powerful conclusion. Much is suggestive, but Threedumb is proving at small-scale digital theatre that casts a new eye on the classics alongside their live stage work.
There’s a sense of danger in performing live in many places at speed, but the cast goes with it, and every performance feels strong and committed.
Taking a different spin on the story, which tackles how women, and especially female immigrants often lose out where power and officialdom are concerned, Notre Dame holds a real sense of terror and injustice.
Frollo can use his power for good, and does, with his ward Quasimodo, by rescuing him as a foundling and vouching for him as an adult, but he chooses not to with Esmeralda, his cruelty and violence becoming ever more unsettling.
Notre Dame was livestreamed on 26 Jan with further streams until 28 Jan. You can also pre-book for on demand access. Tickets here.