The Remembrance of
Edgar Allan Poe
At the 1991 Edinburgh Festival, I was asked by an American playwright
and if I would be interested in playing Poe in a play off-off-Broadway.
I was suspicious but despite (or perhaps because of) a run of catastrophes
in my personal life I set off for New York, where after two weeks of rehearsals
the 'producer' disappeared and the production folded.
However, in those two weeks, and on later reading Kenneth Silverman's
definitive biography 'Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance', I
found Poe's words and life touched me deeply, and I resolved to create
a solo show in tribute to him. I found his public image, as the god-father
of Hammer horror, fell far short of his true importance. On closer analysis,
Edgar Allan Poe emerges as a literary giant, whose grisly stories and
sentimental poems are actually powerful personal testaments. Far from
cold-calculated exploitations of the public's morbid taste for sensation,
they are the outpourings of a beautiful and innocent soul, afflicted with
repeated and terrible suffering - a child's attempts to find meaning in
an almost unbearable weight of tragedy and sorrow. In Poe's aesthetic
principles also, I found much with which to identify. He espouses the
detached calculation of ultimate effect, and yet everywhere in his writing
he applies it to subjects which are clearly autobiographical.
The play I had been rehearsing oscillated between Poe's own often ornate writings and the would-be playwright's Hollywoodesque sentences, seldom longer than seven words. So I had already realised that to truly capture Poe's spirit it was necessary to imbibe his word-craft, and I decided to create my performance using as much of Poe's own language as possible, which to me meant entirely in Poe's own words.
I read a few more biographies, researched his letters, and then scoured
his writings for any material which I felt to be autobiographical, and
weaved the strands together into a shape which underwent several changes
between its first performance in January 1993 and its current form. Along
the way I have made many painful erasures, particularly of his wonderful
later poetry and the beautiful and hopeful ending to the story Eleonora,
(where he glimpses an escape from endless mourning). Except the prologue,
this performance is entirely made up from extracts of Poe's letters, The
Philosophy of Composition, the stories Berenice, Eleonora,
Lionizing, and William Wilson and all of The Raven.
George Dillon's Tour Dates
(as of Tuesday, 07 April 2020)