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  • Nikita Ved

Review - These Demons


Playing until: 14th October 2023

Writer: Rachel Bellman

Director: Jasmin Teo

Set and Costume Designer: Sophie Firth

Lighting Designer: Skylar Turnbull Hurd

Review {AD-PR invite}

You can tell it is ‘spooky season’ as soon as you enter the auditorium. The room is dark and feels cold with the sounds of the wind whistling in your ears. There’s a sense of foreshadowing before the play even starts. These Demons tells a tale of how two seemingly different sisters come to understand each other and their family a whole lot better in their Aunt Mirah’s (Ann Marcuson) cottage in the woods and after a series of supernatural events.

Younger sister Leah (Olivia Marcus) is a comedic misfit who bonds with her Aunt Mirah because she sees a lot of herself in her aunt. They’re both outsiders, funny, quirky, and they both don’t get on with their sister. Leah runs away from home because she suspects Mirah has been hospitalised by a local youth that’s been appearing in the garden. Worried, Danielle (Liv Andrusier), comes to the cottage in the woods to look for Leah, but is unable to persuade Leah to leave as she is convinced that she needs to find this youth and get him to confess to his wrongdoings. Little do they know that their criminal hunt would quickly turn to a ghost hunt.

The play tells its story through a series of flashbacks and you see how Leah and Mirah bonded when Leah would skive school to be with her aunt. Mirah is an author and her specialist subject is Jewish scripture, mysticism, and demonology, all of which fascinates Leah. Then the story moves to the strained relationship between Leah and her ‘perfect’ older sister Danielle. Danielle’s life seems perfect (went to Durham University, has a coveted grad scheme with John Lewis), but the façade soon fades when an unwelcome paranormal guest starts to disturb the sisters.

We cover a lot of ground in 85 minutes and touch upon: anti-Semitism, demonology, sisterhood, abandonment, acceptance, family, women’s health and so much more. Perhaps a few themes too many. For example, it is mentioned that the demons are personal, and yet the play never quite explained how Leah and Danielle both seemingly hear the same things at the same time. Leah and Danielle’s mother left them when they were little. While this has had a significant impact on Leah’s wellbeing, the effect on Danielle and the family unit as a whole is not explored.

Despite the premise of the story, there is a lot of comedy in this production, most of which can be attributed to Marcus’ superb comedic timing and Andrusier’s sarcastic responses. The set and lighting are used most effectively in this production. Set and Costume designer Sophie Firth created a wall and window to ‘separate’ the inside and the outside of the house, with the actors often going round it as they enter or exit the cottage. The slightly see-through material that forms the wall also creates a sense of mystic and supernaturalness in the right lighting, showing the audience the presence of shades and phantoms in the vicinity.

These Demons is a good story, artfully navigating the boundaries of the supernatural, jump scares and comedy. However, this play brushes past some of the short, intense moments across the many themes presented that have the potential to be pivotal story arcs, ultimately leaving the audience feeling cheated.

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