EHF: Tarmac Lullaby @ Banshee Labyrinth, Edinburgh

Erin Elkin's monologue tells spooky stories with magnetic energy, but some elements of its staging let it down

Review by Rho Chung | 01 Nov 2023
  • Tarmac Lullaby

Following on from their 2022 Edinburgh Horror Festival hit The Rotting Hart, Crested Fools returns with a new solo show, Tarmac Lullaby.

Tarmac Lullaby follows a mysterious woman as she tells stories – or, rather, as stories come out of her. If the format seems simple, do not be fooled. The stories are entertaining, engulfing, and as the narrator, Isla (Erin Elkin) continues, they are gradually stitched together into a horrifying, disorienting franken-story. 

Isla begins her monologue by recognising an old coworker amongst the audience. While it's not immediately clear that this is what's happening, this gimmick simultaneously works and doesn't – while it challenges and unsettles the audience, it also makes us wonder what the rules of engagement are. Will we be asked to participate? Are these questions rhetorical? Separate from necessary questions about the show's themes, these questions take us out of the play, instead of drawing us in. The interludes between stories become an exercise in politely humouring this heavy-handed reach through the fourth wall – a reach which, given Elkin's natural magnetism as a storyteller, is hardly necessary.

Elkin holds her own through the text of the stories, keeping up the momentum of the piece. It is a valuable experience for an audience who loves spooky stories, but as a piece of theatre, it lacks a clear reason for being a play, instead of another medium. Despite its hangups, the story successfully renders queerness literary – the play interrogates the characterisation of queer femininity as predatory, deceptive, dangerous. Elkin's magnetic performance holds it all together, redefining love and monstrosity.

Tarmac Lullaby, The Banshee Labyrinth, run ended