Under the Floorboards is a one-man horror show based on the real-life crimes of Ed Gein, who inspired Norman Bates from Psycho, Leather face from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs. The show portraits grave robbery, recycling of body parts, offensive skeletons, a twisted home economics show and a mother that will do anything to protect her child, a mother that is actually only alive in Ed’s mind.
I walk into The Bread and Roses Theatre feeling partly excited and partly apprehensive, I know the show is for ages 18-plus and comes with a warning advisory, I know it’s a horror type show so I think I have an idea of what it might be like. As I walk in I realise I need to expect the unexpected and open my mind to the experience. I say experience as that’s what it feels like, this isn’t a show to sit and watch, I’m in Ed Geins living room, I’m at the graveyard with him, I’m experiencing what it like to live in his mind or at least in Simon Shaw's interpretation of his mind.
It’s clear from the start that Simon Shaw has done his research and is a confident, skilled performer. I believe entirely that I am listening to a psychotic man who is explaining why he does the things he does. There are moments when I forget it’s a show and begin to feel uneasy and actually scared, which I’m sure is the intended effect.
The set is basic, the props are minimal but there is no need for more than there is, Simon’s movements and acting are so expressive and detailed I can’t help but be drawn into everything that is being shown. The mood that is created in the room is sinister, the lighting is eerie and the sound effects cold and atmospheric. Every time we change location, the lighting changes to represent the situation, it goes pitch black suddenly and silent, I cannot hear a single sound, everyone is holding their breath during these moments.
The entire performance is intense, wild, and unhinged and exactly how you would imagine a psychopath serial killer to be in the comfort of their own home. Although I am witnessing barbaric acts I somehow feel slightly sad for the character, he has childlike tendencies, is lonely and vulnerable and has always been that way. It’s a fascinating show that could be interpreted in many ways, in fact I would guess most people watching it would come away with different views and opinions, a lot is left to your own imagination. Simon Shaw most definitely puts his all into this role, mind, body, and soul.