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Edinburgh Fringe 2012

The Indescribable Phenomenon

Haberdashery productions

Genre: Drama




Low Down

Through the physicality of the performers we are taken into the world fantasy, fantasism and phantasm as the cast tell the fascinating story of a woman who was a fraud and show how she was able to fool the world and illuminate the story with wonder and not a little magic.


The story of the medium, Anna Eva Fey is ripe in drama. From her early years as a child she was seen as one with the “gift”. She then used that gift to fool many around and create a presence that fooled many apart from those closest to her. Betrayed on a regular basis it is interesting to muse over who exactly was the fool in this story as she managed to create a worldwide phenomenon that was her act and become the very first woman to be accepted into the Magic Circle.

The greatest weakness here is the narrative. The script begs questions but we are given a whirlwind of a story which the actors attack with verve and vitality. The problem is that whilst I loved the story I was looking for so much more. It scratches the surface and tells the whole story in an hour where an hour on some of the key moments in Fey’s life would have been well worth the entrance money.

What I saw as its greatest weakness though may have been the play’s greatest strength. All the acting on display was caricature driven but highly skilled. The set pieces and voices, even dealing with late comers was fantastic and I was spell bound enough for the hour. Staging was all Victorian gothic and the time taken to give us a bit of an environment well worth it. The Victorian cabinet tricks were especially worthwhile. We may be used to Derren Brown debunking the medium’s art on TV but the first hand witnessing of how it would have been done originally is worth the entrance money alone.

The production was pitched at the right level and I fully enjoyed how the actors were able to weave such a complex piece through the central character made the complexities understandable. I was engaged though much of the story was easily predicted the performances kept you there. Not quite on the edge of your seat but certainly wanting to know and see more.

As a piece of Victoriana Gothic style storytelling this was superior to many that I have seen. The grotesque nature of some of the people around Anna performed well to act as a counter point to her normalness. Director, Sophia Stucco manages to wring so much out of the performances that we may be able to forgive the lack of depth in the script in performance but in review that lack of depth remains a problem.

As an example of how to tell the story of Victorian horror this is in very able hands. With a better script it could become an even bigger horror story – in a good way of course.