The Pit And The Pendulum – September 2011


By: Edgar Allen Poe, adapted by John Goodrum

Directed by: John Goodrum

Company: Rumpus Theatre Company

Venue: Connaught Theatre

Date: Saturday 24th September 2011

Before seeing this production, the film, starring Vincent Price, was still in our memories. Tonight’s performance has certainly pushed those to one side. With only two actors and one set, this company managed to create a tremendous sense of fear. The pace was slow, and it was mostly two people talking, but with short re-enactment sessions built in to the narrative, they evoked the horrific situation the young man found himself in very well – I’m still creeped out days later.

In an attempt to rescue his wife, William Trevelyan has been kidnapped by an evil bunch, one of whom is his wife’s uncle. He’s been confined in a dark room, circular in shape, and with a nasty hole in the middle of the room. He’s been put through various forms of sadistic torture, including the swinging pendulum blade, but after the opening scene which showed us this gloomy cell, he’s rescued when a group from the local village come out to the house he’s been kept in and arrest the various wrongdoers. As he’s still weak, his rescuer, Josiah Bellamy, gets him to recount his ordeal before taking him upstairs to freedom. As the story unfolds, we’re shown some of the events – given the gloom, it wasn’t always easy to make things out – and then the play reaches the final, disturbing twist as William gets to meet his wife’s uncle, the man who’s behind his suffering.

The set was simple. A raised circular platform in the middle of the stage, with the requisite hole in the middle, and a series of chains hanging down at intervals round the outside. That’s it. The lighting was good, though as I’ve mentioned it was often very dark, making it hard to see what was going on. Once the story started, though, we were talked through the action, which worked better for me.

This same group did The Signalman, which we saw back in 2009; this is another good adaptation of an old-fashioned horror story, and I’ll definitely look out for their work again.

© 2011 Sheila Evans at

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