Edinburgh Fringe 2013
This was one out of a series of three tales. Heart Shaped Hole was Tell Tale Heart for the new generation. Bringing it up to the tenement about to be blown up in Glasgow and blowing off the cobwebs of the past to see the work in a new light but also one that shines in relevance for today. The other two have similar descriptions and update The Fall of the House of Usher and Ligeia.
Marty Ross arrives in the dark. Dressed in a tracksuit he is a thief, a junky looking for a fix. Once the junky gets into the house we are greeted with lights and the illumination of the problem as told by our untrustworthy narrator. The fix is on the thigh of an old man who had an unhealthy interest in wee boys which made the junky’s sojourn morally more acceptable at least to himself. Once he has stolen the stash, made lots of cash and thrown it around whilst entertaining a young girl he rescues whilst in the pursuit of his own ends, his end arrives with confession due to the heart beating louder than his words could ever do.
This was visceral. There was no doubt this was to be an update that cried Trainspotting in the flyer and held nothing back in its telling. Marty Ross is a compelling narrator and onstage presence. Whilst some of the monologue became slightly long winded for me there was never any doubt that this was Poe. The essential elements were well translated into a modern setting that certainly left you thinking as well as reeling.
Ross’s ability to transform himself into the old man through the ever seeing eye of that old man’s own abuse was remarkable. Never less than compelling this was theatre that kept you on edge and occasionally threatened to send you off it.
One man, one bhoran, one chair and a tracksuit: as a set list it hardly needs a transit but it was all that was needed as a door in the venue was used to good effect as the old man’s front door; the side of the archway, where the young girl was held captive in the flat.
As a raconteur it is the utter conviction with which Ross performs that does not allow you time to consider what is being said but draws you into his world. His character driven monologue is on full speed and ahead is the direction you get dragged in. There are no periods for reflection or doubt, this is happening and it’s happening NOW!
It was almost a full house when I went and it certainly deserved that. The audience were appreciative though a little reserved at the end. I put this down to a collective letting out of breath at the end of the roller coaster rather than a lack of appreciation.
It was unsophisticated storytelling and in a manner that left all the rough edges hanging. Anything that was surplus to requirements was turfed but it still had the raw emotional energy that dragged people kicking and screaming into the narrative. It was this lack of sophistication and light and shade that gave me some doubts. It perhaps needed more in the way of colour to heighten the effects of the story rather than having a full speed charge towards the eventual conclusion. That having been said, it was an immensely entertaining ride that scared and shocked in equal measure – a fair ground ghost ride for the 21st Century of which Poe would have been rightly proud.