Afraid of the Dark at Charing Cross Theatre
Premiering in London this autumn, Afraid of the Dark has ignited anticipation in those subjected to its elusive marketing and advertising ventures. Its tagline “What’s the scariest thing about the dark? You can’t see the very thing you’re afraid of…” doesn’t give much away and “written by Anonymous” adds another shroud of mystery to what exactly audiences should expect.
We are introduced to failing company Excelsior Films, led by producer Bernstein (John Guerrasio) and his team: tormented Herschel (Mark Rice-Oxley), dogmatic Roger (Charlie Anson) and sassy Sandra (Rebecca Blackstone). Amid their bickering and squabbling while trying to come up with an idea for their next tale of macabre, Dr Charlier (Julian Forsyth) suspiciously arrives with his ominous yet calming, all-knowing presence.
The script is sharp and fluid with the cast bouncing off each other at such speed we could easily forget that this is a staged production. Guerrasio is excellent as the slightly camp and bossy Bernstein, his dry, biting wit providing many a chuckle throughout. Delivering perilous letters to the team that tear away at the mind of the receiver, Charlier proves that “fear is unexplained small acts not huge grotesque billboard posters.”
Set in Hollywood during the Red Scare in the 50s, the underlying use of fascist and communist sympathy adds another dimension of trepidation. Regularly plunging the theatre into darkness, and with special effects that extend into the audience, the cast and crew effectively instill a heightened sense of self-awareness and create moments of tension that beg for the lights to reignite.
The objective of the play is not to encourage fear of dimly lit spaces, it is not to induce screams of terror, nor is it to keep anyone awake at night. Its real endeavour, under the command of Ian Talbot (artistic and managing director of the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park), is to make us think about the nature of fear in trivial threats and why it eats away at us.
Afraid of the Dark is a clever, touching insight into the lives of the characters, each struggling with the Charlier quote “to live is to suffer”. This is a unique theatrical experience, combining tension, humour, politics, romance, mystery and death that forces acknowledgement of the commonality of our anxieties and the agitation in enduring them.
Afraid of the Dark is at Charing Cross Theatre until 26th October 2013. For further information or to book visit the show’s website here.