REVIEW: Vladimir the Crow-Whispering Ghoul (The Basement)

Review by Tim George

Vladimir the Crow-Whispering Ghoul

[Open the Doors]

Vladimir the Crow-Whispering Ghoul
Vladimir the Crow-Whispering Ghoul

‘Some are born to sweet delight, Some born to endless night…’

— William Blake

‘Is everybody in? The ceremony is about to begin…’

— Jim Morrison

Generally, while I watch a show, I try to get a grasp on something that I can use as a basis for my review, a hook to hang my hat so to speak. About midway through Vlad the Crow – Whispering Ghoul, I was still scrabbling around trying to find that little nugget of inspiration. And then Vlad made the above quote, and a series of connections began to form in my mind.

From Blake, I immediately remembered the Doors song ‘End of the Night’, where Jim Morrison repeats the same line (which Google helpfully told me comes from Blake’s Auguries of Innocence). Suddenly creator/performer Paul Bourke’s approach came into focus:

The Doors’s live shows were based around a highly focused control of and interaction with the audience, a sort of heightened tension akin to a ritual in which the music Jim Morrison’s surreal imagery/pretentious twaddle was supposed to open the listener’s mind and tear away all the restrictions and frameworks of contemporary life, leaving only basic, primal humanity.

This long-winded intro basically summarises the effect of Paul Bourke’s show. Show? That feels like such a reductive term. ‘Experience’ is probably more appropriate.

Using a combination of expertly timed sound design and physical performance, Bourke transports the audience into a strange, surreal dreamscape of every horror cliche you can think of. And while the touchstone is cinema, the techniques he uses are more the realm of an old campfire story. Contorting his body, making sound effects with his mouth, or placing a flashlight under his chin to hollow out his eyes, Bourke runs through every possible ‘scare’ tactic you can think of.

You will laugh, you will jump and you will hope that Bourke/Vlad does not decide to pull you out of the audience for some ‘games’. Or maybe you will.

The show comes off as both extremely tight and loose — the overall effect is completely dependent on the audience’s reactions to what Vlad/Bourke is doing, and his interactions with the audience (or the other way round).

I want to avoid spoilers so I won’t go into further details. To boil it down: this show is great. It’s too bad it’s only on for one more night, because I wish I could go again. Go see it.

SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by Nik Smythe

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