The Remembrance of Edgar Allan Poe: Reviews

He’s been to Steven Berkoff’s Hell and back gathering acclaim all the way. Now the extraordinary George Dillon delves into the life and tortured mind of Edgar Allan Poe in his latest one-man show. When his own life hit a low Dillon went to New York and trawled through Poe’s letters, lectures and verse to discover not just a cheap horror storymonger and sentimental poet but a man disintegrating mentally under the weight of personal tragedy. He empathised and his resulting tribute, using Poe’s own words, is darkly powerful and brilliantly performed. Mesmeric, physically eloquent, Dillon acts body and soul. Saturnine, menacing, savage yet vulnerable, his creation is part Jack Nicholson at his most manic, part depressive, moving in distracted, tranquilised limbo. The monologue hinges on Poe’s epic poem The Raven, staged in light then shade reflecting the swings from sanity to madness, fantasy to reality. Dillon’s delivery is magnetic. He stabs words out like a knife-thrower, shoots volleys with Kalishnikov ferocity or mouths them slowly with deliberation and pain. You can only bleed for Poe who died without a friend, but you can marvel at Dillon’s virtuosity.

Stephanie Ferguson, YORKSHIRE POST, 1st February 1993

George Dillon produces, directs and acts out his own creation, illuminating Edgar Allan Poe’s life and work, in an electric display of emotions, heightened by expressive physical movements which flow out with the overwhelming and precisely enunciated words – each one is heard, from sotto voce to screaming sorrow and anger. This solo performance about Poe’s life and work, using only Poe’s words, presents the “arch-priest of Gothic Horror” as an author suffering to the depths of his soul. Thorough, talented, amusing, provocative, soul-searching, this must be seen. Dillon is, we are told, an actor with “no formal training“; a genius.

Eric Braun, THE STAGE, 1 April 1993

Step out of the 20th century some lunch-time into this gloomy and beauteous solo show about the Fall of the House of Usher writer, Edgar Allan Poe.

Using Poe’s own words, George Dillon recreates this tormented character who, despite his fame (especially after The Raven was published in 1845), remained in virtual poverty all his life. He was driven beyond the point of sanity by the death of his beautiful child-bride Virginia from “a haemorrhage of the lungs“. Melancholy, death and beauty obsessed and inspired Poe, yet her was anything but a funereal character – rather, as Dillon portrays him, wild-haired and excitable.

Dillon’s poised but manic performance is beautifully offset by a simple and sombrely-lit set – lots of shadows stretching up the velvet-lined heights of the Pleasance.

Jan Franks, EDINBURGH EVENING NEWS, 13 August 1993

Steven Berkoff’s influence on George Dillon can be strongly felt in this brilliant monologue portraying the master of Gothic horror. That lurid intensity is perfectly suited to Edgar Allan Poe’s fiercely contradictory personality and work, which towers above its imitators and casts a long, dark shadow over subsequent generations of pulp horror fiction.

Dillon’s performance is astonishingly versatile, a tour de force, driving together the passions, concerns and torments of this monomaniac genius with a determination and vigour that is exhausting to watch, let alone perform. All the more a feat of acting stamina considering the two Berkoff productions and a Dostoevsky adaptation that he is also performing at the Pleasance.

Using only Poe’s own words, Dillon effortlessly bounds between the intellectual precision of the writer’s literary criticism and the purple terrors of his prose and poetry, interspersing it with aggressive caricature.

Abandoned by his father, Poe’s mother was swept away by tuberculosis when he was two. So his childhood was certainly no “weak and irregular remembrance”, and these experiences haunt his outpourings, compounded by his wife’s death of the same illness

Peter Jinks, THE SCOTSMAN, 13 August 1993

George Dillon, self-styled godson to Steven Berkoff, is playing in four shows at the Pleasance Theatre. All are performed with technical brilliance and punishing ferocity in the grand Berkoff manner. The best and newest of the four is Dillon’s own The Remembrance of Edgar Allan Poe, which details the consumptive story-teller’s obsessive loves in life and literature. He has custom-built it for his mastery of gothic theatre and it contains an unforgettable rendering of Poe’s classic poem, “The Raven

Tom Morris, THE INDEPENDENT, 20 August 1993

The short life of Edgar Allan Poe had a colour almost as lurid as his tales. At two years old he stood at the deathbed of his consumptive mother (abandoned by her worthless husband). A wealthy benefactor first adopted him as his protege and then ditched him in poverty in early manhood. Marriage to his cousin, still a child, afforded a brief interval of peace until she too contracted tuberculosis. Desperation led to heavy drinking, and his death at the age of 39 followed two years after hers. George Dillon, piercing-eyed and straggle-maned, creates vivid images of the years of hope thwarted, and joy turned to stone, entirely through the words of Poe. No narrative interrupts the montage of extracts from Poe’s fiction, letters, and verse. The syllables of “nevermore“, the dark refrain croaked by the raven in his best-known poem, toll like a cracked bell over the last sad years. Dillon is a high-octane performer, and so is Steven Berkoff… Berkoff is Berkoff. Dillon is Poe.

John Fowler, THE HERALD, 27 August 1993

POE’S life was short, deliriously lurid and insanely angst-ridden. The death of his mother when he was two, the horrors of a long illness, the death of his wife when she was 22 and his own death at 40… it is a tale of obsession, fantasy, literature, death, disease, poverty and near-insanity.

And from hope to despair, rage and anguish, one-man acting masterclass George Dillon in the grandest tradition of the Steven Berkoff school of acting whispered, twitched, bellowed, ranted and pierced through the auditorium like a caged, wild beast.

This was acting to the near point of madness, yet always controlled, always studied, fantastically electrifying and at times dazzling in its versatility.

Eighty minutes passed in an almost dreamlike flash. This was a ferocious, technically brilliant production – hypnotic, surreal and deliciously disturbing. Unmissable.

Dan Rider, BATH NEWS, 4 March 1997