In a small, sparse room in the BASEM3NT tucked down a city laneway, Deep End Theatre Company gave their debut performance of a quiet yet powerful play, Speak of the Devil. An experimental piece of theatre, the work is a remarkable triumph of writing, acting and production that might be in its own humble way one the best dramatic performances of the Fringe.
Four friends in a small country town are reeling from the senseless suicide of their friend (and sibling). With his death comes a shadow in the form of a ghastly crow 'devil'. The four cry, fight and love their way to accepting the trauma they carry with them, indeed like shadows. Their performance is supported by impeccable sound and lighting design, especially for such a small show. Frequently the performers would take a breath in unison and be transported to the devil's subterranean plane of doubt, grief, anger and torment — all signaled beautifully by subtle yet affecting shifts in sound and lighting ambience. While we can hear crickets in their golden-lit lives, down below there is only an unsettling drone and the sinister crunching of the crow's feet through the brush as he stalks them through the cold blue glimmer.
The performances are all excellent, with heart-wrenchingly genuine pathos in the expressions of all on stage, but what surprised most occurred about two thirds of the way through the play. The players actually halted the show for the crow to conduct a brief group therapy session with the cast. This wasn't fabricated either, they were candidly talking about their excitement and anxiety surrounding the play's run in the Fringe. It's a brilliant device that adds texture to their themes of loss and gradual acceptance in a wholly unexpected way.
Speak of the Devil is one of those shows that embodies the very best of the Fringe. An innovative work of theatre from an emergent theatre company in a small venue that expresses so much raw humanity through only the most essential tools — great writing, acting and production.
Go see it or the crow will haunt you.