Improbable Theatre, 70 Hill Lane

Review in Issue 9-1 | Spring 1997

When Phelim McDermott was fifteen years old he was visited by a poltergeist. For three days Polty, as he later nicknamed it, took over the house, throwing objects from the attic and causing general mischief. It frightened the pants off the teenager, who was home alone with his friend Karl.

Polty eventually disappeared but the experience has become one of McDermott’s artistic inspirations. In his kooky shows, sets and puppets metamorphose in front of your eyes, and there’s an irreverence for objects, which are used and discarded, torn up and thrown about.

70 Hill Lane is the theatrical account of what actually happened during those three days. Throughout, McDermott’s style is casual and light – his narrative flows in easy conversational banter and the overall feel is entertaining and relaxed. McDermott uses little in the way of set, preferring instead to sketch verbally any locations and props. That which does exist is produced in conjunction with McDermott’s collaborator, designer Julian Crouch. It is Crouch who transforms the storytelling into theatrical magic with his spiders web of sellotape from which emerges houses and scrunched puppet characters.

This show isn’t only about those ghostly days however. It’s also an amble through various autobiographical episodes. Which is a shame. The show is charming and funny but these episodes seem like an apology for having little to say about the original subject. The pace of the show cruises along largely unchanged and somehow we never reach the meat.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Jan 1997

This article in the magazine

Issue 9-1
p. 24