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"The Room in the Tower"

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Over the years, Roger Doyle’s works have frequently made use of narrative and performance and recently he has focussed on collaborations with the writer Carlo Gébler (including the sensitive adaptation of Gébler’s memoirs about his father). As part of Dublin’s Absolut Fringe Festival, they present their take on the E.F. Benson short story, The Room in the Tower. Combining pre-recorded dialogue and music with Doyle’s live piano and contributions from Vyvienne Long; The Room in the Tower is a powerful and chilling piece of theatre.


13th-18th September, Dublin, Ireland.

Benson’s original story revolves around a man and his recurring nightmares which eventually manifest themselves outside of sleep (I will not go into further detail for fear of ruining it for those who have not read it). Doyle and Gébler’s version captures all the unsettling atmosphere of Benson’s original, successfully transposing the creeping dread from the page to theater. Gébler’s text was recorded prior to the concerts and manipulated by Doyle in the studio; mixing foley work with a surreal rendering of the protagonist’s nightmares. Robert O’Mahoney played the narrator, Edward, and his performance avoids any of the usual pitfalls of modern adaptations of classic horror. There is no hammy acting, the character’s distress and fear from his nightmares is fully realised by O’Mahoney.

While the original story makes no mention of music, Gébler’s rendering specifically introduces a piano player and a singer, both of whom are present in the real world before the audience. Doyle himself played the mysterious pianist and later Long took on the role of the singer. Doyle’s previous experience as an actor pays off during the piece; periodically he would raise his eyes from the piano and slowly scan the room, scanning the audience and meeting their gaze with an icy stare. His piano playing punctuates The Room in the Tower and forms not only an ambience in the room but acts as a physical bridge between the audience and the characters whose voices are coming out of the speakers.

The climax of the story and its eerie coda feature not only the most disturbing twists in the tale but the most electrifying music too. Making use of Long’s usual calling as a cellist, Doyle accompanies her on the piano as they bring more of the play’s background detail into our reality which reinforces the terror of The Room in the Tower. Another musical section found near the end saw Doyle playing solo with a gurgling electronic backdrop erupting from the speakers which can only be described as supernatural.

Tickets to The Room in the Tower came with a complimentary download of a studio version of the play. Hopefully Doyle and Gébler will make this available to a wider audience as it is a fantastic addition to their Cinema for the Ear series. However, I must admit that listening to The Room in the Tower at home alone lacks the same impact as it did in a live setting. That being said, unless they get a healthy grant for touring the performance, the studio version is more than adequate as a standalone piece.


Last Updated on Sunday, 19 September 2010 22:10  


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