Going into Horror, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. There are trailers online but they don’t really tell you much apart from pushing the fact that the show is gory. They’re not wrong – blood is generously splattered across walls and actors alike, making us wonder if the theatre’s curtains were red before Horror moved in!
We’ll lift the official synopsis:
“A woman returns with two friends to her parental home. The house is haunted by a tragic family event. None of the group knows what happened to the woman’s older sister. Her vengeful spirit, however, does make itself known to them. In a series of flashbacks, the past gradually re-emerges: the cruel parents, the crushed youth. The youngest sister is brutally confronted with the hidden past. The only way to survive is to face the terrible truth.”
Being completely honest; whilst the story is there, it’s not really something the show seems too concerned with. In fact, I’d gotten so carried away with the imagery and set-pieces that I managed to miss some very literal story beats because of the surreal tone that envelops the eighty-minute duration. It’s more a collection of brilliant sequences tied together with a loose narrative than the other way around.
And those scenes basically play like a horror’s greatest hits. There’s an extended scene that so closely shadows Evil Dead that it’s borderline plagiarism. Which isn’t necessarily a negative, just expect that for a five-minute stretch, this show essentially becomes the Evil Dead play. Elsewhere there are echoes of the Ringu movies and the infamous deleted scene from The Exorcist.
There’s also a heavy Argento influence with certain pieces of music recalling a classic Goblin vibe and demon characters that are very reminiscent of the killer from Phenomena.
In short, there is a storyline here but it feels like an excuse to spin out a bunch of iconic moments in a frenzied fever dream. It may come across as derivative but there’s a certain joy in seeing these classic set-pieces playing out live in front of you in full, bloody glory.
The staging was flawless. For the eighty-minute runtime limbs were severed, people levitated and blood literally exploded across the stage and it was baffling how smoothly it was all orchestrated. I can be quite a cynical audience member, if something occurring defies belief, I’m actively looking out for the how. Save for one moment, I can safely say it fooled me!
And whilst it’d be unfair to spoil some of the gags, there were some very creative mutilations to be witnessed. Coupled with the immaculate presentation, some moments had audience members wincing!
The final thing worth mentioning is that this was an incredibly confident show. At absolutely no point did it resort to cheap jump scares to provoke a reaction from the audience. This was so refreshing in a world that largely believes that loud and sudden equals scary. Massive respect to the team for not taking that route!
Towards the end, with the introduction of two new characters, Horror lost its way a bit. Whilst this stretch of the play offered the most complex staging, it felt a bit jarring and came across like blatant padding to ensure the play reached an expected length. There was little offered here apart from more meat for the grinder. It’s always a risky shout, bringing in new characters so late in the game and, in this case, it definitely stood out.
Horror (2017) Jakop Ahlbom Company
Horror really is a unique piece of almost mainstream theatre. It's a fun trip but if you have an aversion to the colour red, keep far away!
Ticket Price: £22
Address: Peacock Theatre, Portugal Street,Holborn WC2A 2HT