views from the gods

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Greywing House
Tristan Bates Theatre
5th August 2015

★★★★☆

Publicity image for Greywing House

Photography provided by Mary Beth Morossa

"The host was decidedly strange, the roof leaked so heavily that buckets kept filling up to the brim with stagnant water, oh, and there was no full English available." It's a pretty grim account, but if you will ignore TripAdvisor, it's your own fault for ending up somewhere like Greywing House, an old-fashioned bed-and-no-breakfast run by Amelia (Mary Beth Morossa). There's every indication that this was once a thriving business with plenty of guests; a beautiful period building overlooking the sea, but Amelia's heart doesn't seem to be in it. It's not that she's not polite and welcoming, but she's exhausted, fragile and has no sense of time passing.

Dressed in a spotted vintage tea dress with a pale face and striking red lipstick, Amelia looks as dated as Greywing House itself. There's something very delicate about her demeanour and her language, which crosses from prose over into poetry and then back again repeatedly. It's clear that following the mysterious loss of her father-in-law and husband she's struggled to run the imposing house by herself, there's something odd about her current circumstances and we can't quite figure out what that is. Greywing House is a sort of Gothic mystery - an unsettling and intriguing tale which draws you in.

Morossa blends her breathtakingly beautiful dialogue with video projection, shadow puppetry and haunting music by Daniel Cross. She may have had some help with the soundscape of sea shanties and other melodies inspired by the ocean, but this is very much a one-woman show. The puppets are crafted intricately, and the lighting is spot on, but some of the actual execution moving them is a little rough. Using strange glowing goggles to represent Mr Greywing and Mr Greywing Senior gives an ethereal feel to the action, and helps Morossa transition between characters.

A panel covered in fading, peeling wallpaper with black marks hints at the guest house's decay, and as Amelia desperately tries to clean them, you feel she's not only trying to scrub away the mould, but purge her soul of the deep-rooted sense of loss. A coat hangs up next to the window, suggesting that either someone is missing, or that Amelia is ready to run outside searching at any given moment. Very early on we assume Amelia's family have been claimed by the sea, but there's far more to the story than that.

There are some lulls in the action as day turns to night and then back again. Although the pacing feels a little off, we know time is a loose concept for Amelia anyway. Watching her move around at night in a dreamlike trance, we realise how anguished this woman is - unable to find respite from her thoughts even in the moonlit hours.

I'm not quite sure I'd want to stay over at Greywing House. Some of the other guests sound rather past their sell-by-date and a little eerie. However, from the safety of the seating at the Tristan Bates, I must admit it's fascinating peering in.

Greywing House opened on 4th August and runs until 8th August 2015 at the Tristan Bates Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Leicester Square (Piccadilly, Northern)



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