Houses are for the living. But the way some of them are built, you’d think they were more for the dead. In The Fall Of The House Of Usher, theatre collective theatrethreesixty invite you to step into a mysterious house like no other, where secrets lurk in each corner.
“The audience will be in for ‘an experience’ right at the door of the show,” says director Nicole-Ann Thomas, 45.
“Be prepared for a journey. I’ve challenged my ensemble, they will beleading the audience into the House of Usher. It won’t be a very normal way of ushering people in,” she adds.
The Fall Of The House Of Usher, based on a famous short story by Edgar Allan Poe, is the tale of a man (just called the Narrator), who visits brother and sister Roderick and Madaline. Both suffer from mysterious ailments. In the tradition of Gothic horror, however, the Narrator soon discovers something far more sinister than he could imagine.
The Fall Of The House Of Usher will play at the Lot’ng Arts Space, a new arts space in Subang Jaya, Selangor, from Aug 2-12.
The story has been dramatically adapted by writer Tarrant Kwok. He admits the production is almost “slavishly” true to the original story, with the only additions being extra scenes between Roderick and Madeline to flesh out their relationship.
“Some people may rag on Poe now, but his writing was really very clever. His references, although they were period, they are very clever, and I tried to pay homage to them in this show,” says Kwok, 28.
The play features music by Shaun Chen, and features a 12-person ensemble, namely Gregory Sze (Roderick), Amelia Chen (Madeline), Brian Cheong (The Narrator), Nik Waheeda, Nikki Basharudin, Derek Ong, Taylor Tay, Melissa Kong, Ian Abel Nathaniel, Karanbir Hundal, Axyr William and Joshua Navin.
Theatrethreesixty artistic director Christopher Ling, 43, says The Fall Of The House Of Usher is part of a “three play, six week” theatre festival, along with a monologue play What Am I, A Bloody Banyan Tree? and Malay drama Cikgu Disiplin Sekolah Aku.
“It’s not an ode to Malaysia Baru. This is an attempt to have an all-rounded look at what Malaysia Baru has to offer all of us as Malaysians, and our future generations,” says Ling.
The story of The Fall Of The House Of Usher will be told through physical theatre. Putting the show together involved a collaborative process, with the cast encouraged to add its own input and ideas.“The house is alive, its a character itself. That’s where you’ll see most of the ensemble, playing around with it. But it won’t be just the house you get to see, sometimes there will be things going on around the characters or in their minds. Sometimes the words they speak can be reality, sometimes what seems real is not. That’s what it’s like in the House of Usher,” says actor Joshua Navin, 24.
Everything may seem strange in this setting. But actor Brian Cheong has a very different challenge playing the Narrator. “He’s the most normal person in the whole show. You’ll probably find him on the street, walking next to you. When he comes into the house, he goes on a journey from normal to something quite bizarre,” says Cheong, 32.
For actress Amelia Chen, 34, playing her role meant looking up catalepsy, a nervous condition that her character suffers from.
“A lot of people have pre-conceived ideas on theatre, but it can be so much more. It’s much more than just people emoting words on stage. I think this production pushes the envelope of what we’ve been doing in theatre,” says Chen.
The Fall Of The House Of Usher will play at the Lot’ng Arts Space, 32-2, Jalan USJ 10/1E, Subang Jaya in Selangor from Aug 2-12. Showtimes are 8.30pm on Aug 2-4 and Aug 7-11, and 3pm on Aug 5 and Aug 12. Tickets are RM43, RM33 (concession and special rate for Tuesday/Wednesday shows). For mature audiences only. FB: theatrethreesixty. More info: upstairsatlotng.peatix.com.