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The Unquiet Dead
Published on Monday, 07 May 2012

4 stars

Upstairs at Three and Ten (venue website)
5-7 May, 1:00pm-2:00pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 Suitable for age 15+ only.
 2-for-1 tickets for Friends of the Fringe members.

I am becoming a firm fan of storyteller Matthew Bellwood. Last year, I listened to him recount his own tales; but this time, the stories are all by others, each with a spooky, sinister flavour. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another performer quite like Bellwood, who makes the pure act of telling of stories – somewhere between acting and live literature – the centre of what he does.

But despite the fact his style is so unusual, it’s completely accessible and feels utterly familiar. Bellwood is very firmly positioned in a folk tradition of storytelling. Somewhere inside us, we know just where he’s coming from.

He opens with a meaty slice of MR James. The language is gorgeous and I was hooked within moments, but I almost preferred Bellwood’s post-tale summing up: a few compassionate, thoughtful side notes about what had driven James to write the tales he is famous for.

In fact, as Bellwood went on with the show, I found missed his personal touches and asides as he presented the work of others. Bellwood does a neat job of vanishing into the stories, but I found I wanted more of the moments when he stepped out from behind the curtain and gave us his take on the world he was presenting.

From tales of baffling weirdness from Victorian magazines to hearty folk songs, all life is here. And Bellwood’s smart final comments, about how ghost stories reveal – sometimes unwittingly – truths about the mundane world, illuminated just why work like Bellwood’s is so fascinating… and how our stories make us human.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.