Review: "Unburied" at the Waterloo East Theatre
From the off, I was gripped. Thoroughly gripped. And, honestly, who’d have thought you could be gripped by a non-play about a niche 70s kids’ TV show?!
“Fight Club”, “The Others”, “The Sixth Sense” and – now – Carrie Marx’s “Unburied”, all have a couple of things in common. They are all slightly weird stories… and they all have big ol’ twists meaning they’d be spoilt if I were to share them with you before you’d seen them. (Seriously, though, who hasn’t seen “Fight Club”?!)
That said, it is preeeetty difficult to write a review of a show if you can’t talk about 70% of what made it magical. Still, I’m going to take a crack at it.
The premise of “Unburied” is fairly straightforward. In 1978, HTV produced a six-part children’s Folk Horror serial called ‘Unburied’. The tapes are now missing, presumed destroyed. In the subsequent decades, its existence has become the stuff of myth – and Carrie Marx has taken it upon herself to find out what happened to it, and why. As she digs, she discovers a terrifying mystery, buried in our cultural past.
Having read most of that on the show’s website, I had myself all prepared for an evening of spooky theatre, and headed to the Waterloo East Theatre expecting demons, monsters, and ghost stories. That is not at all what I got. Instead, all there was on stage was Carrie Marx, in totally normal clothes, with a desk, a laptop, and a projector.
Marx had spent the last year, poring over evidence in London’s various archives, piecing together what she could find on this disappeared TV show and is making a 6-part podcast for her company, Hermetic Arts, detailing what she found. As she was recording some of the show as part of this, there was a little bit of stop-starting – but her asides, when she paused, were so engaging that you barely noticed, and definitely didn’t mind – and that is my one and only critique of this marvellous show.
From the off, I was gripped. Thoroughly gripped. And, honestly, who’d have thought you could be gripped by a non-play about a niche ‘70s kids’ TV show?! With tales of writer-based rivalry, seances, fires, folklore and forays into the dark web, “Unburied” is a commentary on the internet age and a discussion of how we process the past, now that everything we do can be digitally archived and preserved forever.
If that sounds a bit dry for you – you are wrong. Soz. And the thing is, you won’t even understand how wrong you are until you go to see it.
Carrie Marx is excellent – a clear, confident speaker with lovely, melodious tone and great hair – and she will somehow make it that you end up feeling just as obsessed with ‘70s folk horror TV as she is!
Like the TV show itself, there is very little out there about Marx’s “Unburied”, which was mildly frustrating beforehand, and whipped me into a frenzy of curiosity after. This is a show you need to talk to someone about. As with all twists – they are no fun if you can’t go “WHAT THE HELL” about it afterwards. My trusty plus-one and I spent the first half hour after the show going “Oh and the bit with the -”, and “I couldn’t believe the - ”, and “BLOODY HELL THAT WAS GOOD”.
I wanted to find other reviews to see whether they had been as shocked and moved as I had been… Instead, I lost the best part of the afternoon reading the entire Wikipedia article for “Children of the Stones” – another ‘70s folk horror TV show which Marx references. Thanks for that Carrie.
(I can’t help but wonder if this is what she wanted all along…by depriving us of information, she has forced me to join in her enthusiasm for 1970s kids’ TV…crafty.)
The lighting and sound were excellent too – atmospheric and slick without being too intrusive – they paired well with the rumble of trains overhead, adding an extra layer of drama to the whole thing.
And now I reckon that’s about all I can say about the show I can’t tell you much about… Seriously, though, I fervently implore you to go see this – only then will you really understand this article. This review – like Unburied or Fight Club, will only truly reveal itself once you know the twist.
Unburied is on at the Waterloo East Theatre, as part of the Vaults Festival, until March 11th, and you can find tickets here.