Ernest and the Pale Moon is the latest play from the upcoming theatre company Les Enfants Terribles. They are an interesting and imaginative company, and the only way I feel I can describe this play is as storytelling for adults.There is a large emphasis on physical theatre throughout the show, in particular mime.
This means that the four actors are constantly onstage, either becoming set or sound effects. One of my favourite moments is that when a character is walking up the stairs the other actors (with the help of nothing more than two broom sticks) become the stairs and doors as the character moves through, whilst staying still! The movements of all the actors are precise but jerky, this coupled with their pale faces and either white or dark clothing, gives them all a doll like appearance. The actors voices are very articulate and strong but with the flexibility to change to suit the mood and character at different points in the story. Gwendoline is child-like and breathy, Ernest’s is over-articulate, sharp and almost angry and Thomas has a low, manly and slightly cockney narrative.
The set is very sparse and again either black, white or brown and full of mist. The only time that any colour is seen onstage is when Ernest is falling to the depths of his madness and he is haunted by images of red blood. The lighting is very dim and one scene was even done in complete darkness! When needed white spotlights and even torches are used to accentuate the actors features. This gives the whole play a dreamlike and eerie feel.The storyline, which takes inspiration from Edgar Allen Poe and Alfred Hitchcock, follows the three main characters Ernest, Gwendoline and Thomas on a bizarre love triangle which eventually leads to tragedy and horror. However, (and I shall try not to give spoilers!) you will not see the twist at the end coming; although it does lead to more questions about Ernest’s sanity, which unfortunately go unanswered. The story jumps from the main plot line which is narrated by the actors, even if they are being their character at the time, to the present day where Ernest is living in a mental institution. This could be quite confusing for people, but I believe it is written like that to echo the chaos in Ernest’s mind, and that he is replying to his story to himself whilst in the confines of his cell.
The play utilises horror elements very well. There are ‘jump scares’, which made the people next to me jump out of their seats! The scariest moment for me had to be Gwendoline’s ear-piercing scream followed by a sharp black out. I am not afraid to admit that it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up! My only criticism of Ernest and the Pale Moon is that it is too short! It is only an hour long, but it will capture your imagination for the entire time. My favourite aspect of this show is that no one in the cast stood out more than anyone else. They are all amazing performers, but they work well together and make this a true ensemble piece. I would definitely not recommend it for the faint hearted! But it is a perfect show for lovers of creepy horror and something a little bit different. 5/5
Review written by Charlotte Claydon.
Ernest and The Pale Moon was on at the Oxford Playhouse on 31st May. For more information on future Les Enfants Terribles productions, visit here…