Billed as “a love letter to haunted stages, story-soaked speakeasies and the other strange places and lengths we go to find community”, ‘Dark Spirits, Black Humour’ is a one man show presented by InHouse Theatre and Assembly. The platform is Zoom so he can see us and we can all see each other.
The setting is a low lit, atmospheric cocktail bar with our barman, played by Mark Jude Sullivan. He’s very personable and immediately likable. He spends some time mixing a (very strong) cocktail and speaking about the ingredients. He then encourages us all to share something or someone we would wish to commemorate from the past year and most of us do this, myself included. He offers condolences to those of us who wish to commemorate a lost loved one.
He then goes on to tell a story from his life about his Mentor, a fellow actor. The story is in-depth, with plenty of scene setting, explanation and characterisation. Mark is an excellent raconteur, and it feels as though he is speaking to you directly. He puts plenty of emotion into the story, having to pause at various points to take a sip of his drink when emotion gets the better of him.
The premise of this whole hour is to try and build a sense of community through storytelling, to try and erase some of the isolation and loss that has been felt and suffered by so many during the past year and a half. We are encouraged – over two continents as the show is being streamed live from America – to try and recreate the feeling of being in a bar together.
Much as I enjoyed the setting and Mark’s presence and storytelling, I found it took a while to get going and I really only became totally immersed in it in the last twenty minutes. I appreciate that scene setting is a vital part of storytelling but for me, the content of the first half let it down slightly: it wasn’t immediate enough and didn’t hook me in.
That said, Mark’s story-telling ability and confidence was quite mesmerising, and it was his way of presenting the story which held my attention in the first half, rather than what he was saying.
I didn’t exactly find myself looking over my shoulder at the conclusion of the story, but it did become atmospheric and thought provoking by the end and I very much like the idea that for this hour, we were a small community brought together by storytelling.
Dark Spirits, Black Humour is available online via Edinburgh Fringe on August 22nd, 25th and 29th at https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/dark-spirits-black-humor-a-night-of-cocktails-and-storytelling
Reviewer: Nicky Lambert
Reviewed: 18th August 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★