The Mystery of Irma Vep

The Mystery of Irma Vep


For those of us whose childhood was steeped in black and white horror films of the 1940s and 50s, the Lyceum’s latest production looks a treat. Charles Ludlam’s camp epic presents a pastiche of every nostalgic device of the genre, borrowing freely from Hitchcock’s version of Rebecca, before carousing through every other gothic romp from the period.

‘Anyone who remembers those Universal logos coming up before the movie will recognise this,’ says actor Steven McNicoll. ‘It’s got the Wolf Man, the Mummy, the man with the wooden leg and even Mrs Danvers from Rebecca.’ Yet the play is not simple pastiche, as the other performer in this two hander, Andy Gray adds. ‘The point about it is not just the old recognisable figures – we’ve got a story of our own to tell, and I think the audience will be engaged by that.’

Director Ian Grieve reckons that the bewildering number of costume changes the piece requires as it places one character atop another is part of the fun, but not all of it. ‘After a while the audience won’t notice them, because the story actually does become very important,’ he says. This involves an Egyptologist, whose new wife finds an increasingly turbulent story behind the demise of her husband’s late first wife. Sound familiar? Just enjoy!

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, Fri 20 Feb–Sat 14 Mar

The Mystery of Irma Vep

  • 3 stars

Taking its lead from tales of gothic romance, The Mystery of Irma Vep is a fast-paced and wickedly funny parody, mixing in references to 'Rebecca', 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' and 'The Mummy'. Almost as though Daphne du Maurier had written a post-modern episode of Midsomer Murders, starring the Marx Brothers. Obviously.

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