Saturday, 27 October 2012

The Horror! The Horror! - Review

Wilton's Music Hall, London


Book by Stewart Pringle & Tom Richards
Music & lyrics by Jeffery Mayhew
Directed by Tom Richards 

Tom Richards throttles Alicia Bennett in The Horror! The Horror!

The Horror! The Horror! is a delightful, Victorian styled Grand Guignol piece from Theatre of the Damned. A site specific work that commences with a pre-show in the Wilton's bar reminiscent of Oom-Pah-Pah from Lionel Bart’s Oliver, before leading the audience off to explore the more obscure parts of this wonderful old building whilst the main hall undergoes renovation.
Tom Richards, who also directs, is the gloriously whiskered (shameless link to my Movember fundraising page) Alfred Brownlow, the Chairman of the evening, who complete with gavel, announces each vignette with Music Hall showmanship. Over the course of the evening, the audience are escorted by established dwarf actor Ben Goffe, whose miniscule stature and comic delivery lends lends a freakish chill to proceedings, through Wilton’s crumbling corridors to four sometimes saucy but never smutty presentations that each has a grisly end, the details of which will not be spoiled here.
The acting of each playlet is typically excellent. The evening commences with Alicia Bennett and Kate Quinn singing a charming ditty about the preservation of a young lady’s honour, quickly followed by some clever puppetry. Both women are a delight to watch and listen to, their beautifully rehearsed performances evidence of the high production values that Theatre of the Damned strive for.
The second piece concerns an escapologist and his two young assistants who plan to elope, abandoning the old magician. Tim Barton as the ageing illusionist needs to be a tad sharper with his lines – even a minor stumble in a piece such as this can pierce the suspension of disbelief that the company are trying to elicit from the audience.
The penultimate presentation features Jonathan Kemp as a comic, face caked in white, evoking both John Osborne’s Archie Rice and Trevor Griffiths’ Gethin Pryce as at manic speed his patter lurches from mother-in-law gags to murderous confessions. His soliloquies are breathtaking and his performance stunning, intensified by the claustrophobic cell-like room in which he is encountered.

Kate Quinn, Ben Goffe and Alicia Bennett

It would not be fair to comment on the gory, shocking final scene, other than to say that it includes the entire cast rounding the evening off with a witty farewell song.
Together with Stewart Pringle, Richards has made for a fun night of imaginative theatre. The performances are generally outstanding and the imagination and magic that has gone into some of the effects is very entertaining. Some of the show's horror can be a little average with prosthetic face masks echoing kids' “trick or treat” capers rather than professional actors. Similarly some of the stories go on a touch too long and some of the sightlines in the rooms can be obstructed by tall audience members. But those criticisms should be set in the context of an imaginative company presenting cleverly crafted traditional theatre for a modern audience. If there are “date” movies, then this is “date" theatre. Take your girlfriend or your boyfriend – there will be enough shocks to make them cuddle up very close to you as these gruesome tales unwind.

Runs to November 7

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