Theatre review: The Tell-Tale Heart

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THE Australian director-musician Barrie Kosky made a huge impression on Festival-goers in 2007 with his lusciously post-modern version of Monteverdi's Poppea, with songs by Cole Porter. And now – in a satisfying Festival companion-piece to TR Warszawa's The Dybbuk – he sets his subversive musical and theatrical imagination to work on The Tell-Tale Heart, Edgar Allan Poe's classic story of a haunted young murderer, driven to betray himself by his conviction that he can still hear the heart of his victim beating beneath the floorboards.

The Tell-Tale Heart is a briefer, slighter show than Poppea, and it's difficult to argue that it adds much to the sum of human wisdom on the subject of guilt and conscience. But as performed by the magnificent singer-actor Martin Niedermair, with Kosky himself on piano, this intense exercise in style and performance continues Kosky's fascinating exploration of the interface between thrillingly different genres of music, of the borderlands where theatre meets opera, and of the wilder possibilities of the human voice. And the design and lighting – around that single figure perched on a dizzyingly steep, narrow staircase that soars into the darkness above the stage – is fascinating to watch, and a small revelation in itself.

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