Monday, June 24

Uncanny – I Know What I Saw – Festival Theatre Edinburgh 

How have I not heard of Danny Robins?  He clearly has a huge following judging from the whoops and hollers from the near capacity audience when he made his appearance at the start of the show.  Opening with spooky music (uncredited), fog effect and a back projection screen showing a skinny bloke walking through a forest, said bloke’s appearance on stage resulted in an eruption of ecstatic applause, cheers and whistles, prompting my companion to ask, “Who’s that?”  The only reply forthcoming from me was, “No idea!”

It turns out that Danny Robins is an erstwhile comedian and comedy writer, now a journalist and podcaster.  His investigations into the paranormal have led to several radio series and podcasts on the subject, including “The Battersea Poltergeist” and “Uncanny”.   He writes and broadcasts from a shed at the bottom of his garden, a door and a table on the stage representing his work space.  There is also a large QR code projected onto the back screen, so that people in the audience can share their own ghost stories throughout the show, if called upon to do so during the audience participation sections.   Robins is a charming, friendly and quite endearing communicator, whose relaxed chummy chats are perfect for getting the best out of audience members who are handed a microphone to share their opinions or ghostly experiences.

The show consists of the telling of two real stories of apparent paranormal phenomena interspersed with “expert” opinions from two parapsychologists, Evelyn Hollow for “Team Believer” and Deborah Hyde for “Team Sceptic”, with a few audience participation sections thrown in.  The stories are told, in the main, by the projected talking heads of the people they happened to, with minimal stage props being used for demonstration purposes.  Zoe Hurwitz’s set design is effective, showing the word “Uncanny” written in sort of neon effect twigs displayed on bare branched trees, a sole door and two chairs for the experts.  Robins himself makes good use of the space, nipping up and down the steps into the auditorium with sprightly energy.  Elliot Griggs’s lighting design is clever, creating the required atmosphere and even a few shocks, but there was something wrong with the audio, the synchrony of voice and mouth movements of the projected speakers was off.  Whether this was the fault of Alex Braithwaite’s sound or Zakk Hein’s projection I don’t know, but it was quite disconcerting at times.  Otherwise the sound effects were good and the concept and use of back projection appropriate.

Sam Hodges’s direction has created a smooth, slick and deceptively simple stage show, but is it really entertainment?  Not for me, but there’s no doubt the genre and presenter are very popular, and went down a storm with the initiated who were present.  Really it’s all about Robins; he keeps it flowing, gives it energy and manages to make every event, however mundane, (the cutlery drawer was open and nobody had been in the room) into a “wow!  Isn’t that extraordinary?” moment.   The problem for me is that I just don’t believe it.  I don’t necessarily think that people are lying deliberately, but I do think that stories grow arms and legs and become more and more exaggerated in the telling.  But this show isn’t for people like me; for the initiated who follow this almost cult-like topic, it was a clear winner.

“Uncanny, I know what I saw” is touring to 26 further venues across the U.K. and Ireland.

The next show will be at Sheffield Lyceum on 1st June.  Other venues and dates can be seen at www.westendtheatre.com.

Reviewer: H.S. Baker

Reviewed: 28th May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.
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