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'The House at Poe Corner' created by Michael O'Brien and Eric Woolfe

Produced by Eldritch Theatre and now onstage at The Red Sandcastle Theatre

Credit: Adrianna Prosser. L-R: Mairi Babb and Eric Woolfe

Dave Rabjohn

“A crazy mash up of two unlikely partners with Edgar Allan Poe’s haunted characters dovetailed with the beloved stuffed animals of ‘Winnie the Pooh’ by A.A. Milne. A strange combination – or is it?”

Created by Michael O’Brien and Eric Woolfe, this is Eldridge Theatre’s latest thrust into the world of cheeky horror. Calling themselves “the cabal of horror” Woolfe has been serving up the grotesque with puppets and magic for many years.

The storyline wanders. The Pooh characters are blended into the Poe plotlines. Pooh is pronounced Po while the other familiar friends (Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger, among others) are bastardized in creative ways. A number of Poe stories are referenced including ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’, ‘The Pit and the Pendulum’, ‘Goldbug’ and ‘The Raven’, among others.

The two humans that both ride the story and manipulate the puppets are played with saucy abandon by Eric Woolfe (Edgar) and Mairi Babb (Allan). As the various characters fall into gruesome situations, Pooh (Poe) and his friends are haunted by the fear of the unknown Blunderbeast. Is it a childish fear or a real terror? The beast chases them down and they are swallowed Jonah like and sit in the dark reviewing their fate.

The plot is murky and bounces too often from story to story – a concentration on just one of Poe’s masterpieces may offer some unity. Having said that, it is the visual and the shock value (not the plot) that rules this production. Woolfe has been quoted as saying “we’re reluctant as theatre artists to engage the imagination of our audiences.” With the suspension of disbelief, it is our imaginations that colour the puppets.

Woolfe, in hair and make-up a la Gomez Adams, burns through energy as he engages the maelstrom. His puppetry skills are first rate although the parlor style magic was at times tawdry and out of place.
Babb matches her partner’s energy and adds a touch of Greek chorus as she reacts with coy facial expressions to some of Woolfe’s frantic actions.

Many of the puppets were creatively repulsive scoffing at the very cuteness of Milne’s charming animals. Some puppets lacked detail and therefore personality.

Because of the nature of the Eldritch brand, everything goes big – including sound and light. However, some of the blaring pinks and lime greens could have been somewhat muted. The blaring soundscape also seemed to overwhelm some scenes, but several clever choices of music empowered some of the action.

The Red Sandcastle Theatre is an intimate space to a fault – there is sort of a meandering aisle up the middle of the bleachers and there is sort of a washroom that doubles as stage left. Having said that, the audience was engaged and delighted as it has been for many years.

Eldritch Theatre makes no apologies for its cheeky indulgence in “themes of the horrific, supernatural and uncanny.” Reading their online descriptors of people and events is a mash up of gothic mayhem and insouciant self-confidence. This requires a niche audience and Eldritch delivers.

‘House at Poe Corner’ by Michael O’Brien and Eric Woolfe
Performers – Eric Woolfe, Mairi Babb

Tickets –
Performances run through April 21, 2024.

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