‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ (Edinburgh King’s Theatre) | Review By Rhona Williams

As we finally depart so called “Spooky Season”, Tilted Wig’s production of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow directed by Jake Smith, appropriately haunts its audience with its captivating blend of traditional storytelling and a creepy gothic atmosphere. Philip Meeks’ enigmatic adaptation of Washington Irving’s well-known horror story is brought to the stage in a spine-chilling manner, with its fantastically versatile and symbolic set, designed by Amy Watts. 

The classic tale follows the villagers of Sleepy Hollow as Hallowmas begins to approach. With the arrival of a new teacher, Ichabod Crane (Sam Jackson), disconcerting occurrences begin to engulf the town, and Ichabod finds himself entangled within the dark mystery of Sleepy Hollow as he begins to unravel the secrets and traditions of the twisted residents, leaving him questioning his own sanity… and sexuality. 

The ensemble of actors bring Iriving’s tale to life with moments of true fear, sorrow, joy, romance, lust and intrigue. There are truly emotive moments that highlight themes that can cascade from the origins of the 1600s tale, through to the present day. That being said, the narrative that Weeks’ has attempted to establish, needs to be far more clear, despite the efforts and sheer enthusiasm of the ensemble.

Many of the elements of this piece are magical and transport us into a new universe quite different from our own, but with all the elements combined, the production doesn’t pack the punch that it could have. The mix of ambiguous accents, jumbled narrative and moments of uncertainty as to whether to laugh or be frightened makes us wonder the overall intention. Due to the challenging nature of the narrative, the audience were at times lacking any depth of character, which often left us with no emotional attachment to the characters disallowing any intrigue into their journeys and destinies. 

That being said, the play does successfully bring Hamlet-esque elements to the forefront, as the villagers play out and bring to life their chilling legends, ensuring that the audience can only applaud Chris Coming’s choreography and the rhythmic timing of the ensemble that not only entertain the audience, but at times ensure full-body goosebumps. 

The production is elevated massively by it’s fantastic use of set and magical illusions created by Filipe J Carvalho. With grotesque and personified trees looming over the stage, we are constantly reminded of the mystery and horror that pervades Sleepy Hollow, yet the most effective moment of storytelling is nuanced by the most exquisite silhouette work, that not only shows the physicality and athleticism of the actors, but the creativity from the production team. 

As with many horror mediums, we often find that sheer terror comes from the sounds that audiences are presented with. Sam Glossop’s sound design did not let us down here and we were continually spooked by classic jump scares, eerie soundscapes, creaking chairs, doors, and the most terrifying of all… ghoulish children’s nursery rhymes. It was a feast for the ears that the audience were begging for to tie the production together.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Get tickets for ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ at Edinburgh King’s Theatre below:


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