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Review: These Demons, Theatre 503 - atmospheric and funny but not quite the thriller it sets out to be

TheseDemons_Theatre503-61 - credit Lidia Crisafulli
These Demons, Theatre 503 Oct 23. Photo: Lidia Crisafulli

A dilapidated cottage in the woods, where a woman lives alone studying demons: The setting for Rachel Bellman's play These Demons has all the hallmarks of a dark, gothic tale.

Rather than a fantasy medieval setting, the present-day cottage owner is Mirah (Ann Marcuson), a teacher and writer whose pet subject is Jewish demonology.

Her niece Leah (Olivia Marcus) has bunked off school to visit, trailed by her serious and straight-laced older sister Danielle (Liv Andrusier), who has come to take her home.

But Mirah is being demonised by a local youth who possibly caused her knee injury, and her niece Leah is determined to confront him if only to test her own theory of demons, literal or otherwise.

Through Leah and Danielle's strained conversations and flashbacks to Mirah, we learn of an absent mother, sibling rows that led to estrangement and the pressures the younger family members feel.

Jewish demonology provides an atmospheric background, with strange sounds planting seeds of doubt and slightly translucent cottage walls giving way to shapes and movements in the darkness beyond.

But this is primarily a play about two sisters, family and connection. And how you can feel both supported and estranged by the culture into which you were born.

These Demons is described as a thrilling dark comedy horror, and Olivia Marcus's Leah has the funniest lines and great comic timing. And the staging does make it feel quite spooky at times.

But I was less convinced by the mystery boy plot, which makes the 'thriller' tag less easy to hang. The conversations between the sisters start to feel like they are going over the same ground, giving it a slightly sluggish mid-section. 

I'm giving These Demons ⭐️⭐️⭐️.

These Demons, Theatre 503

Written by Rachel Bellman

Directed by Jasmine Teo

Starring Olivia Marcus, Liv Andrusier and Ann Marcuson

Running time 95 minutes without an interval

Booking until 13 Oct; for more details and to buy tickets, visit Theatre 503's website.

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