I entered the performance space to the sight of a Miss-Havisham-like figure dressed in white, gently swaying to a lilting score. A little young boy sat in front of her, holding her as you would hold a crystal pedestal, softly but firmly. The production opened to sorrowful tunes, poetic dialogues, and flickering lights… and I was hooked.
The plot of Death of Her Brother is based on The Death of Tintagiles, written by Nobel prize-winning playwright Maurice Maeterlinck. Anna is trying to save her brother from the wicked Queen, who is coming to get him with her evil ways and creatures of magic. As the time approaches when the creatures will attack the brother-sister duo, Anna’s love and sense of protection for her brother, “who is only a little boy”, pours out. With fairy lights strung through her hair – making her face look ghostly in the pale light – Rose Oke Millett delivers a superb performance as Anna, bringing out the Gothic elements of the script to perfection using both voice and gesture.
Revealing what happens to Anna’s brother would be giving too much away, so suffice it to say that Dave Martin’s soundtrack and Toby Spreadborough’s lighting and sound contribute magnificently to the climax. The script lends itself well to the plot, with haunting lines and powerful imagery: “the moon is sinking beneath the poplars that stifle the palace” is one example.
The characters of the siblings are reminiscent of Tyltyl and Mytyl from Maeterlinck’s more famous play, The Blue Bird; here, too, they continue to wage a protest, rebelling against the omnipotent nature of fate and the inevitability of destiny. And even though they are powerless, even if they seem to be doomed, the audience is rooting for them from the first minute.
The one thing that left me wanting a little more was Charis Edward Wells’ interpretation of the brother. The character was almost overshadowed by Millett’s superlative presence; even though the script demanded a certain level of helplessness, I would have appreciated more force in dialogue and his stance. Wells' delivery seemed designed to emphasise weakness, to the detriment of some stronger lines.
But despite that small reservation, this is the perfect post-lunch show: very visual, very poetic. The scintillating lights and Gothic finery lend the perfect accompaniment to a powerful performance – and, with that striking combination, Dandy Trap’s production rates as a must-watch show this Fringe.