#Edfest: The Etherdome – cheerful scientific collaboration or cut-throat business?

It’s time for our second #Edfest preview from Theatres Programmer Porl Cooper. With The Edinburgh Festival Fringe well under way we’ve asked Porl to give us the lowdown on the acts and shows visiting The Lowry via this years festival.

The next show to feature is Penny Dreadful’s The Etherdome.



“Welcome to a gothic faux-horror comedy about dentistry. Really! Penny Dreadful aim to bring the true stories of the famously forgotten (ordinary people who have been overlooked by history) to the stage with their exciting ensemble theatre. Three dentists/scientists relive their demises over the invention of pain-free dentistry/surgery in this incredibly tight and highly polished slapstick performance. From the suspect medications paraded at old US side-shows comes the discovery of the application of laughing gas in dentistry. After that follows a whole series of chemical discoveries as they delve into the realms of anaesthesia.

It’s not all happy fun and games and cheerful scientific collaboration, though. Who knew that winning the credit for a discovery like this would be such a cut-throat business? There are some brilliant moments, such as some stomach-churning shadow-theatre surgery, and a few really nice fake beards. In other hands this show could fall apart spectacularly, but the Penny Dreadful team manages to hold it together with expertise and finesse. The comic timing is perfect (even though some of the jokes were a little painful), the audience participation reasonably well-judged and the special effects inventive and well-executed. Expect songs, cross-dressing, and some fantastic evil laughs.”

And so reads Charlotte Murray’s 4* review for The Etherdome, the latest offering from Penny Dreadful Theatre. Their past shows have (quite deservedly) been Critics Choice for The Times, Time Out, and Metro, among others. In The Studio we love hosting new storytelling in a fast-moving, vibrant and energetic way, and Penny Dreadful’s highly accessible work is presented with vivacious energy, where a wonderful visual style blends with raucous bawdy humour that’s also punctuated with moments of great poignancy.

Famously Forgotten

The company bring to life the stories of the ‘famously forgotten’, and my first encounter with them was 2007’s The Bitches Ball which shone the limelight on High Flying Courtesan Mary Robinson in a fast-paced inventive production, which was both simplistically beautiful and touching yet highly grotesque at the same time. Director Mick Barnfather’s mark is more than apparent – and indeed if you’re a fan of companies such as Complicite, PeepolykusKneehigh, Les Enfants Terribles & Forkbeard Fantasy, this company will definitely appeal to you. 


‘Grotesqe comedy at its finest.’ Metro

‘This immensely inventive comic company takes on a small piece of medical history, deconstructs it, pastes it together again and actually succeeds in educating us a bit while making us laugh at the jokes and delight in the theatrical inventiveness.’ The Stage. Read the full review.

You can see The Etherdome at The Lowry, Thu 13 – Sat 15 October. And once more we’re spoiling you with a limited number of bargainous £5 seats – grab them before they go!

Look out for the next #Edfest preview on Friday featuring Piff the Magic Dragon…

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