Quoth the Raven...
Upstage and Charlebois Post contributor Sarah Deshaies spoke with Alex McCooeye about his adaptation of The Pit and the Pendulum presented as part of WildSide Festival. Below is an abridged version edited by Estelle Rosen, CharPo editor-in-chief.
You’ve adapted one of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories The Pit and the Pendulum. Are you a big fan of Poe?
I loved Poe as a kid, curled up under my blanket with my flashlight looking up words. I sort of think of him as the Shakespeare that never wrote plays or much about love.
The Pit and the Pendulum is one of his middle of the ground lesser known stories. It’s not The Raven, but was popular once. It’s been done a couple of times on film. Vincent Price did a lame version; there was a film in 2009. Sort of a teen horror sexy film that was awful so I want to do justice to the title.
The story journeys through his psychological state and slow descent into madness throughout the torture.
What is the story behind The Pit and the Pendulum?
It’s a short story that is rumored to deal with the death of Poe’s sister so the story is about loss. A nameless narrator goes through a trial, imprisonment, and torture at the hands of the Spanish Inquisition. The story journeys through his psychological state and slow descent into madness throughout the torture.
I understand this is a world premiere. Are you planning to make adjustments once it’s been on stage?
We’re hoping to shop it around after WildSide but it’s not quite a workshop production. We did a workshop of the script at Playwrights Workshop Montreal in August so I don’t think we’ll be re-working the script.
I think the show would work as a solo performance, but it would be a completely different play. We’ve created a whole new world from what Poe wrote.
There are two storylines. The story I’ve created between this man and this interrogator called the official, and there’s Poe’s story which is what the official is trying to get out of the man.
What’s interesting with Poe is that in referring to the details of what happened required much earnestness of endeavour in order to vaguely recall. In Poe’s world vaguely recalling is specific so if he’s unwilling to recall, how much information would he give and what would it do to his psychological state to unveil this information?
The Pit and the Pendulum