Wed 22nd – Sat 25th Feb 2012


“The crumbling majesty of Castle Gormenghast is brought to life in this innovative and shocking production of Mervyn Peake's modernist Gothic”





Reverend Productions


A grotesque saga of murder and revolution - or the nightmarish fantasy of a troubled child? Join Titus Groan, Seventy-Seventh Earl of Groan, Lord of Gormenghast, on a disturbing and surreal journey into the past, as he remembers his childhood in Castle Gormenghast: a haunting palace stifled by centuries of ritual and repression - and threatened by the machinations of the amoral, ruthless kitchen boy Steerpike. Reality or fantasy? Memory or madness? Take the plunge into Gormenghast's labyrinthine depths - and make your choice.


OTR Backstage with May Anderson

Entering the ‘Gormenghast’ rehearsal space is vaguely akin to stumbling upon a gothic ‘Alice in Wonderland’; hovering on the thin line between sinister and whimsical the cast and set appear like a particularly ghoulish, rather disorderly royal court. Staged in the Corpus Christi Auditorium, upon finding the cast I am confronted by an assortment of characters that range from the faintly macabre to the playfully peculiar, a student dressed as a ragdoll carrying a 6ft lollipop/knife is indicative of the oddness that is abounding in this dress rehearsal. The frankly bizarre assortment of characters involved in this play has been describes by one observer as like ‘Charles Dickens on LSD’ and there is something very trippy about the whole atmosphere.

When the director appears in a striking black dress that is more than a little similar to the costumes her cast are wearing, (it turns out she’s going to a black tie event after the rehearsals) I feel slightly as if I’ve gone down the rabbit hole.

An adaptation of Mervyn Peake’s ‘Gormenghast’ trilogy, the production team had a difficult task in translating a much beloved novel to the stage. Some of the cast are devoted fans – a brother and sister auditioned together to play siblings in the play – and the director and adaptor herself decided to put this show on the stage because in her words the books are ‘awesome!”. Talking about the challenges of taking ‘the beautiful purple prose’ of the novels to the stage Tara Isabella Burton has added levels

of ritual and order that will help realise the Gormenghast hierarchies and laws in the Corpus Christi Auditorium. Burton’s vision seems to be about bringing the world of the surreal and bizarre Gormenghast castle to the stage and the Effects team have certainly succeeded in making it an evocative and beautiful space – cluttered with trinkets like music boxes and children’s toy there is a very nostalgic feel to the set’s design.

‘Tragi-comic’ is one of the words Burton uses to describe the production and in a narrative that includes the murder of a cat, characters that die, and die again, and a giraffe; there is certainly more than whimsy to recommend this production. For fans

of the novels I imagine this would be a rare chance to see such an idiosyncratic world realised so thoughtfully. Burton talks about how hard she has tried to make even the stones look alive because she felt the look of the castle was intrinsic to evoking

the world of Gormenghast. Burton has added the framing device of the older Titus Groan, the novel’s protagonist, looking back on his childhood in the castle to help the novel work more seamlessly on stage. For those who haven’t read the books, the

show invokes universal themes of how far one can really escape the place they grew up in and our propensity to see the past through the veil of nostalgia. Interesting ideas

accompanied by a well-crafted set, for those looking for something different from what Burton calls the usual ‘kitchen-sink BT drama’, I would recommend giving

"Gormenghast" a try.

Admission: £7(£5)

Corpus Christi Auditorium

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