The Queen of Spades takes Pushkin’s infamous short story and translates it to the intimate parameters of promenade theatre – moving the audience between temporalities and locations to immerse them within the heart of the action. The narrative follows the interwoven motivations of the Countess, Liza and Herman – a trio conjoined by mystical powers of three playing cards: specifically, a secret order in which they can be played once in a lifetime that will bring unimaginable wealth and fortunes.
The performance commences in St. Petersburg, where Russia’s blanc-faced inhabitants are on hand to provide their guests with masquerade attire and lead them up the road to the other side of the estate, where we are introduced to our protagonists.
Pauline Libosvar’s insightful set design transforms a Marchmont flat into the domain of 19th century Russian debauchery; with candlelight, sumptuous fabrics and a cascade of gambling paraphernalia underwriting the experience. Musical accompaniment is provided in the form of talented violinists Alison Hedley and Andrew Taheny, who strategically alternate where they play in order to create a distortion in the sound waves, serving to alienate the audience even further.
The projection of film - created by Neon Eye - adds yet another atmospheric layer of storytelling, providing an multisensory element into writer and director Auriol Reddaway’s enchanting concoction of narrative.
The chorus - made up of Isabella Forshaw, Giorgio Bounous, Billy Chapman and Claire Sandford – are triumphant in their characterisations. As the audience’s chaperones, their performances are both fundamental to the logistics of the dramatization, and a magnificent creator of the unsettling atmosphere throughout. In particular, their physicality as they descend into madness during the final scene makes for a sour aftertaste long after the performance ends.
In a glorious explosion of creativity and innovation, Tattletale theatre company’s site-specific, promenade adaptation serves for a truly remarkable debut.