Terror at Terror 2010: Death and Resurrection
Roll up, roll up for an evening of terror:
* Gasp at the stage-school tribute to Michael Jackson's Thriller zombies
* Sigh as each short play's initial promise crumbles like a piece of smouldering ash.
* Wince at the soporific effect of the final play
* Weep with relief at how not a single hair has been raised on the back of your neck
* Cry at the fact that you aren't going to ever get those two and a bit hours of your life back and any credability in recommending friends come along to see a play too has now gone
Yes, I was unimpressed. Can you tell? I love the Southwark Playhouse and thought, where better than the dimly lit, exposed brick arches of London Bridge station with the faint demonic rumbling of trains overhead to see a Hallowe'en inspired series of short plays?
And if two of those short plays were written by Neil LaBute and Mark Ravenhill then all the better.
Now I scare easily and I went along with friends in easy grabbing distance but the main problem was I've seen baby rabbits that were scarier.
It started with some promise. The curtain raiser was an warning sung operatic-style by a slightly sinster singing nurse (it's the old nurses uniform which does it) not to leave our mobiles on.
The first play, Exclusion Zone by Mark Ravenhill also started promisingly in the pitch black with two voices. Hate the dark and when one character produced a torch I thought 'hello, here we go Blair Witch territory'.
The concept was supposed to be the classic 'there is something out there' but the story about what 'it' actually was, was lame rather than tantalisingly scary and what should have been a really atmospheric and chilling piece just turned into a bit of a damp squib. And then a joke, when a load of 'extras' came on dressed as zombies and did a bit of a song and dance routine. Zombies are rarely scary and the certainly aren't scary when performed in a style of a school play.
Then more nursey singing a scary song, which despite my dislike of musicals, I actually quite enjoyed.
Second play The Unimaginable by Neil LaBute, again started with a lot of promise. One of those old fashioned trunks (like Harry Potter uses), lid open, full of the sort of dolls that look a bit demonic and usually come alive during horror films.
A voice from no where starts warning us about leaving our children unattended and how they might be snatched. And eventually you can just make out the creeping figure behind the voice moving about slowly at the back of the stage. He gets closer and closer to the box going and you know he is going to slam the lid down with a snap that is supposed to make you jump.
So you wait for it and he goes on about the kids and you wait and he goes on a bit more about the kids and then finally he snaps the lid down by which point you are just relieved.
Interval. Thank goodness. Time for a drink and a quick catch up with the West End Whingers (still waiting for their revue but am looking forward to it as always).
Then it was back in for what was starting to feel like a bit of a tortuous evening for all the wrong reasons but I remained hopeful.
More of the now wonderful singing nurse and then into the final leg: Reanimator by William Ewart.
Again a lot of promise, two students of early 20th century period experimenting with bringing dead animals back to life. But it soon meanders into something wholly predictable and Frankenstein-monster-esque and probably would have been OK is it had stopped here.
But it goes on to tell how the two students end up bringing dead soldiers in the first world war back to life so they can go on fighting and of course it all goes horribly wrong still in a predicably Frankensteinesque way.
One of my theatre friends actually fell asleep. That't the danger of dimly lit and dull play and I must admit that I wished I'd joined him. I cannot fully express my disappointment and the embarrassment of having dragged two friends along to see this.
I wanted something a bit creepy, maybe chilling* and a bit scary. None of which I got. If it had been funny then I could forgive it but it wasn't. If it was clever I could forgive it but it wasn't. And, it just wasn't silly enough to be entertaining.
It gets one star for the singing nurse and is on until Hallowe'en, spookily enough. There is only one other review, so far on www.upthewestend.com and that has two stars on it.
*Even the theatre was warm, which is usual for SP.