David Glass Ensemble, Gormenghast

Review in Issue 6-1 | Spring 1994

In the dank and dangerous Gothic-like world of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast, an heir is born – the 77th Earl of Groan to be, Titus. But nothing is ever simple and power struggles soon arise. A classic fight of good versus evil. Titus, constantly questioning the rituals he must perform and the way his world functions the way it does, wearing the yellow skirt in the red corner – against Steerpike, monstrously played by Gavin Marshall, consumed by power, wearing the black body-stocking in the boo corner, sorry, blue corner.

Beautifully melodramatic (I did have an urge to boo Steerpike during Act Two) this production is certainly not a pantomime. Gormenghast is one of those special productions that, even at two and a half hours long, sucks you into its story and doesn’t let you down until you are tired and exhausted: you have been amused, horrified, awestricken and captivated by a play that relies less on text, but more on character, atmosphere and imagery.

Gormenghast is the setting: a castle so huge that the corridors never end. We have a glimpse of it with theatrical devices and tricks choreographed to perfection. The atmosphere is dark and sinister, the characters likewise.

The cast of seven, most doubling as other characters, play with venom and disgust. Grotesque caricatures with superbly focused mannerisms to add that touch of ‘normality’ stomp around the stage with infinite energy. But this production is deeper and even more remarkable than Paul Hamilton’s voice (which must be heard to be believed). David Glass has created sordidness that is hand in hand with serenity. His visual power and conviction is created so that you know you are watching an Event. Sometimes Opera, sometimes Clown, sometimes Commedia, this is a production that stands out amongst the theatrical crowd. A beacon that shows the way towards a large-scale theatre that isn’t staid and safe, but takes risks with form and content. This one succeeds – here’s to many more!

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Jan 1994

This article in the magazine

Issue 6-1
p. 18