Sarah Hodgson, Wednesday 01 August 2012
Sarah Hodgson finds a brand new play, The Indescribable Phenomenon, casts a fantastic spell, all the way from Wimbledon to Edinburgh
Are you sitting comfortably? Well, don’t relax for long. Here is on-stage magic, escapology, mind reading, illusions, suggestions of ghosts, visions and the talking dead.... The Indescribable Phenomenon tells the strange and true story of Anna Eva Fay who was the leading stage spiritualist of her day - the Derren Brown of her time - and the first woman who was invited to join The Magic Circle. Fay commanded the interest of Charles Darwin and Arthur Conan Doyle, and the respect of Harry Houdini. She baffled leading contemporary scientists - they explored and examined the human mind with surgical skill, but the mystery can never be explained. To many, Fay was an incredibly famous mystic, to others she was merely a fraud. The phenomenon is literally indescribable.
Compellingly acted by a small cast - Lydia Hourihan, Tom Machell, Lucas John Mahoney and Alex Topham Tyerman - this sweeping play is beautifully tight. Scenes and characters swap with precision and skill, the tempo is brisk and well-maintained. Dust and sepia, black and white and greys prevail - it is as if you have unlocked a secret suitcase which contains a fantastical book...
I caught this intriguing and brand new play, The Indescribable Phenomenon, at Wimbledon Studio Theatre, a personal favourite venue, forever slightly overshadowed by its bigger and more commercially minded sister, New Wimbledon Theatre. The Studio is a venue to treasure, showcasing as it does, productions that are small and innovative, delightful and full of surprises.
And The Indescribable Phenomenon, presented by Haberdashery Productions, written by Alex Topham Tyerman who also stars, and consummately directed by Sophia Stocco, ticked all the studio’s boxes for me.
The opening night, the play’s London debut, saw a spellbound audience - we are sure the magic will continue working all the way to Edinburgh and beyond!
The phenomenon may indeed be indescribable, but the play, as this review hopes to prove, inspires words of praise. Edinburgh is such an overwhelmingly huge experience now - if you are going and want some direction as to what to see, may we humbly recommend, ladies and gentleman, that you book your tickets now!