The Curse of Elizabeth Faulkner
Billed as a suspense-filled Edwardian horror-comedy, The Curse of Elizabeth Faulkner was not the sum of its parts. With a cast of four, it recounts the tale of two 33-year-olds thrust together to end a curse on both their families, recounting their journey to excise a deceased granny, and their dealings with a mysterious stranger. On paper, it sings, but in reality it doesn’t come together.
As a horror, it fails to really exploit the fear of the unknown, with a narrative that just plods along while managing to avoid building any genuine tension. Any that it does muster is quickly destroyed by a grating and frankly pointless female lead. Clearly written in to provide comic relief, the string of vacuous characters are one-dimensional and almost cringeworthy. It’s not true enough to the period or to the genre to work. As a comedy, there isn’t enough off-centre thinking or crafted comedic set-up to pull in the really big laughter it needs. While the writing is a little lukewarm, Neil Henry and Anil Desai give stand-out performances, really attacking their roles with gusto. What humour there is comes from their skilled characterisation alongside a few decent self-referential jokes. A scene on a train is rich in physical comedy, displaying the cast’s clear ability, yet throughout the rest of the play it is woefully underused.
The cast inspire confidence, but the whole thing just felt a few beats behind, with an ending that came out of nowhere. Overall there is a huge amount of potential, but it just doesn’t quite hit the mark.