Penny Dreadful

The Lowry, 13 October 2011

 Penny Dreadful's Etherdome

There is a very beautiful poem by Nick Flynn called ‘Some Ether’, but this play is about another ether entirely.

Not some vaunted fifth element which – as Einstein famously said – cannot be found because it does not exist, rather an anaesthetic, a destroyer of pain, a precious balm.  It is a play about a substance divine and the flawed mortals who bought it into being.

Mostly, the play is an archly acted, neo-Victorian melodrama sprinkled with plenty of slapstick and knockabout humour.  There is a narrative, certainly, but it never threatens to get in the way of a good joke – and nor should it.  Modesty is the watchword of steampunk fashion and here the personae dress in frockcoats and the odd corset.  The set has the appearance of a medicine show, a rabble-rousing soapbox, a demented cabinet.  All very jolly and atmospheric.

If you are looking for a theatrical experience at once wacky, weird and worth it, then Etherdome is warmly recommended.  It is at The Lowry until 15 October and then tours throughout the UK.  Details can be found either here or here.