Reviewer - John Waterhouse Reviewer number 9
Countess' is based on the true story of the 16th Century Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathory who is believed to have tortured, maimed and murdered hundreds of young women, believing their blood could preserve her own youthful looks. Along with Vlad Dracul of Romania, she was one of Bram Stoker’s two main influences for the fictional Count Dracula and the Countess’s own story was famously told by Hammer Films in the 1971 film ‘Countess Dracula’, starring Ingrid Pit.
Amanda Fleming’s telling of the story takes the form of a shocking character study of an ageing woman, desperate not to grow old whose bizarre fantasies and psychopathic appetites towards sadism and killing are given full vent through the absolute control she has over the peasantry. The compelling question is whether she is truly evil, desperately mad or some twisted combination of the two. perfomed both at the Unitarian, a gothic Victorian church in the heart Todmorden and the in-the-thrust setting of the Eagle Pub provided the perfect setting of private rooms in a castle or dungeon, complete with balcony, which was used to great dramatic effect.
Edward Darling opens the show as the Guide playing a curious Monk-like figure, reminiscent of Ralph Richardson’s crypt keeper in ‘Tales from the Crypt’; a useful device for setting a scenario before horrors unfold. With a surprising entrance, Alexis Tuttle gives a convincingly menacing performance as the deranged Countess, surrounded by weak underlings. An evil delight in her absolute control of others is evident through a frighteningly understated intensity and the audience at the Eagle was clearly captivated. Lindsay Eavis as Darvulia, the Countess’s one true friend, is only a few shades less evil and arguably more culpable since she seems to possess a greater grip on sanity and reality. Laura Hickin as the servant Theresa, clearly knows what’s going on but her level of actual complicity is ambiguous giving an interesting dynamic to the character. Set against these villainous women are Hannah Torbitt, playing several of the Countess’s innocent victims with a helpless terror whilst Lilaine Taylor as the college mistress Madam Vazi is elegant and composed but her intellect and respectable position in society are no match for the Countess’s machinations. John F Doull as the King cuts an imposingly powerful figure who is oblivious to what is secretly going on.
Countess is a well-crafted mix of horror and psychological observation, grounded in the history of another country nearly five hundred years ago but in the light of modern horror stories like Fred and Rose West startlingly relevant.
A fine cast including Alexis Tuttle as the tyrant Elizabeth Bathory and Lindsay Eavis behaving badly as Darvulia.The audience is taken on a journey by The Guide, a weird hooded character dressed in black played by Edward Darling. At the start of the performance a volunteer is selected to knock on the old oak door. Someone pushed me forward, and so it began.
Really great fun and quite chilling, set in this historic and characterful 19th Century church. At the end of the performance you are invited to stay for a drink and chat with the cast, including writer and director Amanda J Fleming. An enthusiastic and friendly troupe of players who are clearly passionate about live theatre.
If you are anywhere close to Todmorden tonight and tomorrow why not spend the evening with Countess Bathory and her strange friends. Beyond that do try to catch them at a venue near you.
Skiddle event rating: 5 Verified review Cathrine Simmons
A great evening out. There was an excitement in going into a different and very intimate venue. Impressed with the actors’ total immersion in their roles. The time flew by!
Skiddle event rating: 5 Verified review Terence Riley
Spooky atmosphere and great venue. The acting was terrific and the price was a bargain. Great thing to see just before Halloween.
Skiddle event rating: 5 Verified review Helen Hickin
Spooky gothic drama played out close to the audience. Based on some horrible history.