Edgar Alan Poe’s The Tell Tale Heart is a classic of American Gothic fiction in which a murderer’s guilt eventually manifests itself in the sound of his victim’s heart beating. Chances are that between homages in The Simpsons and countless film adaptations since its publication over 150 years ago, you’ve seen it performed, referenced or parodied at some point or another. It’s less likely that you’ve ever seen a queer-performance of the text that brings it into a contemporary (and crystal meth addled) urban setting. Well, now’s your chance, as from tonight, Hoxton’s The Glory is playing host to a gritty interpretation of the story that’s directed by Giorgio Spiegelfeld and stars London’s legendary queer performance artist Jonny Woo – seen here as Jonny Wooster.
Keen to explore the possibilities of Poe’s text in a radically different context, Spiegelfeld shifts the setting to the basement of a dilapidated London townhouse (carefully rendered by internationally renowned set designer Tony Horneker). Boasting a thumping Techno score courtesy of DJ Hannah Holland, this new adaption fully immerses the audience into the troubled mind of a meth-addicted paranoiac. This is the second production from The East London Session Players following their sell out version of Sunday Last Summer at The Glory and, of course, another chance to see Jonny Woo in a theatrical guise after his work as Lou Reed in Transformer at Soho Theatre. Space will be limited given the extensive nature of the set, so get down to The Glory early to catch this unique production.
Before the opening performance tonight, Wonderland grabbed 60 seconds with Jonny Woo, Hannah Holland, and Tony Horneker to find out more about their roles in the project and why they were keen to get involved.
Why did you get involved?
JW: Basically following on from Suddenly Last Summer which we did at The Glory. This is a continuation of the work we did together, which was really exciting and also it’s continuing my own work with different theatrical roles.
HH: I’d seen the East London Players last production, and thought it was great. I loved the concept of the new project, everyone involved is a huge talent and I knew it would be special.
TH: I’d been to see the first play by them, and was enamoured. Also we are all friends, so it felt natural and I was given lots of freedom to dream…
What has your contribution been?
JW: Well it’s a solo performance in terms of actors on the stage. So I’m the character you see and get to know and who tells the story. of course it’s not solo in terms of the work gone in to make the installation, create the soundscape, come up with the concept and all the other things which have made such a detailed show happen.
HH: To design a soundscape illuminating the mind set and environment of Jonny’s character, David Tailor. I’ve taken inspiration from Berlin’s Berghain, specifically the main stairwell inside the club, with a David Lynch undertone and a sprinkling of Throbbing Gristle.
TH: Creating the installation in the basement. It’s a very immersive set. It feels a bit like another world down there now. Somehow cosy and familiar yet scary and wrong…If I was a drug addict…
What should we expect from the show?
JW: It’s a wonderful re-imagining of Poe through the eyes of a contemporary character. it really brings the story up to date. it’s absorbing, frightening and thrilling, especially in terms of set and the sound design. Also, really look at the details in terms of props and set dressing. Loads of clues as to the characters story. It has a stealth like quality which explodes!
HH: A stunning piece of modern realism, surrealism and horror.
TH: To be engrossed, grossed and intrigued for 55 minutes precisely.
Summarise your experience in 3 words?
JW: Intense, exciting, challenging.
HH: Inspiring, exhilarating and collaborative.
TH: Fun, free and focused…
Why should we come see it?
JW: Because there ain’t nothing else like it on in London right now and it’s always good to be ahead of the crowd!
HH: It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before, and will take you on an all sensory, intimate, theatrical experience.
TH: Because it’s special.