FRINGE REVIEW – Dark Heart of the Valley, Quaker Meeting House


23-28 Aug, 2015 (2105) @ Quaker Meeting House

By Danielle Farrow

A chair, a table, a candle, an hourglass, a couple of glasses of water; a gentle glow, a spotlight and a red wash; a wicked robber, a cave of gold, a reluctant soldier, a quick-thinking witch, a loving wife, the devil himself – and more. A storyteller.
While the staging is simple, the stage is filled with characters and adventures, intricacies and surprises, along with a lot of humour. Owen Staton’s delivery takes a little getting used to as he pushes the start of phrases very strongly, but he doesn’t fall into really pummelling his audience – instead, he uses variation to draw us in and creates wonderful moments of suspense right next to those of laughter. The darkness in the two tales is left to our minds to fill out, to some extent, but this is part of the art of storytelling: stimulating the imagination of the listeners and creating notes that play on after.
Staton’s Welsh tones attract, but would not be enough to fill the time if he were not also a very fine storyteller. He sets scenes and details beautifully, taking us from current Edinburgh and the Fringe into the world of the supernatural. The details given in the placing of these tales are marvellous and caused this reviewer to do a spot of research online after, learning a bit about a famous opera singer along the way. For Staton mixes historical fact and dramatic license to bring great texture to his dark, valley world, and this ‘time between times’ passes quickly, with the listener engrossed throughout.
Dark Heart of the Valley is an engaging, well-told piece where you can see a performer thinking on his feet and committing to the gift of story he offers – a gift worth receiving.

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