Gorgon, VAULT Festival


by Verity Sharpe

This is a spectacularly brilliant show which fuses conventions of both horror and comedy, effortlessly guiding the audience on the protagonist’s journey of revenge. It follows a young woman who has been stepped on her whole life by those she should have been able to trust.

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Something Awful, VAULT Festival

Image result for something awful, vault festival

by Evangeline Cullingworth

Soph (Natalya Martin) and Jel (Monica Anne) are pouring over creepypasta horror stories at break time and catch the attention of Ellie (Melissa Parker), the new girl in school who wears her phone in her shirt pocket like a sheet of armor. Their interest become fixations, and what begins with giggles and goosebumps quickly reaches dramatic heights. Something Awful perfectly recreates some of the most memorable times at school, the battles fought over playground loyalties, the fanatic scrutiny of gossip and the stories told in ravishing detail. The breakneck thrill of the internet adds to this nostalgia to create a stomach dropping tragedy.

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Fix, Pleasance Theatre

Image result for the fix, pleasance theatre

by Laura Kressly

Kevin arrives at his last call-out for the day, a dilapidated house in the middle of a forest near where he grew up. Li Na presents him with a washing machine that no longer spins, but as Kevin attempts to repair it, there are obvious hints that the machine isn’t the only thing that’s broken. Intertwining mythical and personal histories, Julie Tsang’s horror story is a compelling blend of the supernatural and the real.

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Providence, VAULT Festival


by guest critic Tom Brocklehurst

We discover H P Lovecraft, cult horror writer from Providence, Rhode Island, standing on the banks of the Providence River in 1910 threatening to drown himself. In an It’s A Wonderful Life-style intervention, the ghost of Edgar Allen Poe (Dominic Allen) arrives to try to talk him around. We then flash forwards through the rest of Lovecraft’s life in this biographical comedy, with Poe helping him along the way.

It sounds like a strange idea for a play, but it’s a suitably bonkers device for a show about a weird man who wrote very weird tales.

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Howl, Rosemary Branch Theatre


With Halloween becoming more and more popular this side of the pond, horror theatre and live events are proliferating. The London Horror Festival is bigger than ever, new scare attractions appear all over the country every year and independent events like Frissonic’s Howl expand the otherworldly and terrifying offers for thrill seekers this time of year. A site specific, immersive performance for an audience of six, Howl is a considered, effective performance that induces plenty of jumps. Though the story of a disappeared sister and mysterious voices is patchy, it is well delivered, and combines audience manipulation with technology to create a delightfully creepy event.

The choice of a small audience generates fear from the beginning – there is less protection with fewer people, particularly when paranormal investigator Rory places us on isolated chairs around a large, long-abandoned storage room. We are there to help Rory look into a something he heard when he was recently alone in the theatre, and we use sound to try evoke it again. Wireless headphones, increasing pace and anxiety, and customised audio content create heavy tension and uncertainly ripe for scares.

The ending in a different room is too rushed and betrayed by the lack of a full blackout. Though there is a clear resolution, the reasoning leading up to that point is never fully explained. How does this voice connect to Rory’s sister who disappeared all those years ago? How did we find him and decide we want to help? Rory is very much a character of the present, but frustratingly little of his past is revealed.

Frissonic nail the scares in Howl with their tech and small-audience approach, but adding flesh to the skeletal story will hugely improve it. Currently running at 40 minutes, another 15 or 20 minutes of text will make this feel more theatrical and less reliant on the scares.

Howl runs through 31 October.

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The Sandman, London Horror Festival

rsz_sandmanThe sandman doesn’t throw sand in your eyes to help you sleep, oh no. That’s just what parents want children to believe so they aren’t scared of the real sandman. The real sandman is horrible. If you’re still awake, he steals your eyes and puts them into his little bag and takes them up to his little, bald bird-children who live on the moon. Then they eat them.

T. A. Hoffmann, celebrated German gothic horror author, wrote short story “The Sandman” in 1816. Featuring automatons, folklore, love, childhood trauma and obsession, it tells the tragic downfall of Nathaniel, who couldn’t let go of his boyhood fear of the sandman, personified in his father’s malformed colleague, Coppelius. Adie Mueller and Mike Carter adapt and modernise this short story into a one-woman show of the same name that eschews linear narrative in favour of a disturbing, extremely fragmented chaos. Mueller skillfully performs the eight characters that appear in the story, but the show requires a lot of thinking and patience to decipher the truth behind the numerous perspectives.

In the programme, Mueller and Carter state, “The woman knows that this story is too much for her and she needs you, the audience. The story bursts out of her and comes at you in fragments, randomly and out of chronological sequence. You will have to play your part in piecing them together, finding the overarching narrative, and search beyond reason to make meaning from them.” This is a nice idea to draw the audience into a one-person show and make them feel needed, but for the tired and those that want to sit back and be entertained/scared, it’s hard work. It also serves as a distraction from the lack of clarity of the audience’s function and relationship to the performer, a vital element of one-person performance. Requiring us to sift through the pieces of story strewn before us has no benefit to the performance or the piece; it would be delivered identically whether the audience understands or not. Director Carter chooses to keep the house lights on so Meuller can make eye contact, but there is no direct dialogue. What does she want from us? Why are we hearing this story? It is never revealed.

Mueller’s performance draws attention away from these shortcomings, and it’s an excellent one. Her use of physical storytelling and character differentiation comes easily, and shows a high level of skill and training. Clad in white, she cuts a powerful image in the Etcetera’s small black box, adding to the chaos with her violent use of creepy props.

The story modernizes well, with a focus on sexual dysfunction, technology and its grim intersection. The characters evoke empathy, particularly Nathaniel, who we see as a scared child and an adult obsessed with his lecturer’s “daughter” Olympia. Though his behaviour is appalling, he is a victim of his past rather than a calculating psychopath. His attempts to maintain a normal relationship with human being Clara are thwarted by reoccurring psychotic episodes…or are they real? The prospect of an alternative, tormenting reality that haunts Nathaniel is deliciously spooky. The Sandman is creepily unsettling and despite the effort needed to work out what is happening, the performances and characters make up for the jagged structure.

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