Horror is a tough act to pull off on stage; for every Woman in Black there is a damp squib such as Ghost Stories (still somehow managing to pull them into the Duke of Yorks). While the movie horror genre seems to go from strength to strength, the theatre is still struggling to follow suit.
Southwark Playhouse has valiantly tried to rectify this with their annual terror season, with this year’s offering Terror 2010 subtitled Death and Resurrection.
It offers four plays plus interlude entertainment that, according to the publicity material, ‘contains scenes of a shocking and disturbing nature’. The only real shock is how some of this material actually ever made it to the stage and disturbing that some well-known names have penned contributions.
Given the nature of horror and its reliance on surprises, it is hard to review a show such as this without revealing too much. In reality, though, there is little to reveal, none of the pieces contain any real shocks or plot twists, with only the most timid getting even the mildest of shocks.
Up first is Mark Ravenhill’s offering to the mix, The Exclusion Zone. It is perhaps the piece that shows most promise, two young men meet in deserted woods but their plans of a sexual liaison take a darker twist as a horror tale becomes real. Now if the play had finished at the moment the play took that darker twist, all would be well but instead the two hander is supplemented by a Tesco carrier bag-clad ensemble of Zombies doing what appears to be a primitive impression of a tribute act to The Rocky Horror Show while a Russian songstress squeals out Bow Wow Wow’s Go Wild In The County. Any tension that has been built instantly evaporates as the audience sits bemused and wondering if they should laugh or cry.
Sadly The Exclusion Zone proves to be the highlight of the four plays. Neil LaBute’s monologue The Unimaginable goes nowhere slowly, April De Angelis’ The County dispenses with any real characterisations while the longest piece, William Ewart’s Reanimator, seems like a pale imitation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein tale. By this point, any horror moments were met with giggles rather than screams.
Oh and there is also a goth/zombie bellydancer to further confuse a shell shocked audience. Some thought also needs to go into the make up – in an intimate venue such as Southwark Playhouse, children’s Halloween party standard zombie make up will only generate laughs and not chills.
There are some redeeming features. Performances on the whole were well conceived and Sarah-Louise Young’s songstress nurse was a joy to watch and listen to but woefully underused.
Halloween may be fast approaching but this show will fail to raise goosebumps on all but the most lily-livered. A truly disappointing offering.