The eerie and intriguing premise of ‘The Basement Tapes’ is confused by its rushed, bizarrely over-produced ending. The transformation of the Former Women’s Locker Room at the bottom of the ‘secret staircase’ (as dubbed by one of the employees who helped me find my way) is impressive and fittingly claustrophobic; the acting is eager and engaging, however, the show’s pacing really lets it down.
A large portion of the show is dedicated to the main character rummaging through her dead grandmother’s basement, trying on dusty old coats and dancing to old records before discovering mysterious tape recordings of said grandmother’s voice. The tale told on these tapes consequently pushes the granddaughter’s perceptions of her family and herself into a dark spiral of doubt.
The unnamed girl’s antics are at first endearing, but then the show only drags through more scenes of basement pacing until the framing device of the postmortem unboxing becomes uninteresting and almost irritating. I found myself more interested in the grandmother’s story of twisted selves and desperate measures rather than the granddaughter, and as the audience are plunged into darkness to listen to the tapes I can’t help but liken this experience to listening to an audiobook as a group rather than a theatrical performance. The lack of visuals is frustrating, and the sudden overcompensation of the lack of visuals that comes in the last fifteen minutes is jarring. The final twist comes out of nowhere and ends so abruptly that any sense of tension or thrills are lost in bass-boosted beats and flashing green lights.
There is potential for this show to become genuinely thrilling and exciting, as there are moments of real tension that lure the audience in. It is intriguing and well performed, however this deliciously sinister and effective narrative is sadly lost amongst clutter.
‘The Basement Tapes’ is playing at the Former Women’s Locker Room at Summerhall, August 5-12, 14-19, 21-26, 18:30pm
Tickets are available at the Box Office or online at https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/basement-tapes
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