national Arts Festival Banner

Friday, July 18, 2014


(Marc Kay)

Outstanding production sure to receive further exposure. (Review by Keith Millar)

A deserved winner of a Standard Bank Ovation Encore Award at this year’s National Arts Festival in Grahamstown was Durban-based Actors Unemployed Company’s impressive Gothic horror story The Erl King.

Originally written by John Connolly The Erl King was adapted for stage and is performed by the talented Durban actor Marc Kay.

The story is about a lonely young lad named David. Devastated by the death of his mother after a long illness, he experiences deep emotional turmoil when his father decides to re-marry. Soon they have a baby and David feels further isolated.

He takes to wandering alone in a forest of Alder trees. But he is not alone. He is confronted by a horrific creature as old as the woods themselves. The creature wants to consume him, and his only escape is to sacrifice another.

The story is brilliantly told through shadow puppetry and a remarkable solo performance Marc Kay. Kay is blessed with a beautiful sonorous voice which he uses to excellent effect in both the live and pre-recorded segments of the production. He is a skilled storyteller and he delivers a haunting performance.

The use of shadow puppets in the telling of the story is also outstanding. With creatures designed by Peter Court and created by Clare Mortimer, Bryan Hiles and Marc Kay, they certainly add an evil and sinister edge to the proceedings. The puppets are operated on stage by Marc Kay and Bryn Hiles who is also the director of the production.

The set also deserves a mention. Made up only of four skeletal Alder trees and a wooden bench, and fed liberally with stage smoke, they create a bleak and chilly atmosphere which was helped I am sure by Grahamstown’s cold weather.

The Erl King is an outstanding production which is sure to receive further exposure. When that happens don’t miss the opportunity to see it. – Keith Millar