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ATTRACTION REVIEW

Review: Take Me Home – Horror Within (2018)

Our first show of the year took us to Barking for a spooky tale!

Ticket Price: £17

Address: The Broadway, Broadway, Barking IG11 7LS

Website: https://www.takemehomeplay.co.uk/

Nestled away at the top of the stairs in The Broadway theatre, ‘Take Me Home – Horror Within’ had a very unassuming front. It made us smile somewhat, the proximity of the makeshift room to the bar. There we were being tormented by vengeful spirits whilst the weekend theatre crowd were enjoying their drinks, blissfully unaware of the terror that lay mere feet away!

‘Take Me Home’ had been on our radar ever since their modest marketing campaign caught our eyes last year. Unfortunately, a few things conspired to keep us away during its run… So you can imagine how pleased we were upon learning that the show was such a success that extra dates had been added. We weren’t going to let it slip through our fingers a second time!

Billed as immersive theatre, the show takes place in the drawing room of ‘Chesterton House’, a residence that certainly has a history. The story begins with a man named Edward Turner attempting to auction this building and we quickly learn that doing so hasn’t been easy – there’s a history of previous occupants disappearing shortly after moving in! Enter our protagonist, Jacob Ward, who promptly bids for the estate, insisting that it be sold to him. From here, we follow Jacob as the unearthly residents of ‘Chesterton House’ make their presence very much known to him (and us).

Speaking of ‘us’, if you were wondering what makes this show ‘immersive’, the audience are all sat at a table in the drawing room, unseen by the characters. This means that the story unfolds all around you – we probably don’t need to tell you how the team use that to their advantage once the ghosts start showing up!!

Without spoiling it, the story initially felt scattershot with characters’ actions and motivations not ringing true at times, leaving us wondering if and how they were going to wrap it all up. We needn’t have been so concerned – by the time ‘Take Me Home’ came to a close, every lingering question that we had was answered. We were incredibly impressed by how it all tied together considering how dissonant some moments felt.

The young cast handled themselves brilliantly. Always engaging, they tackled the more emotional moments with ease, something that must not have been easy at such close quarters with the audience. They were, as with the set design, another element of the immersion and we definitely bought that we were sat in an old manor at the turn of the century from their performances. If there was a weak point here, it was in the character of Adelaide Smith. There was nothing wrong with the actress’ depiction of her but the character herself seemed less integral to the overall plot. The lack of time spent with Adelaide compared to the other two also didn’t help.

And the set itself was suitably decrepit. The walls were adorned with dirty, curling wallpaper and empty picture frames were littered across the area, the lack of pictures highlighting the fact that any sense of ‘home’ had long since left this place with only empty shells of happier times remaining. The table itself was awash with detritus – before the show began, we were instructed to not touch any of the objects scattered across the table – much easier said than done considering how plentiful the clutter was!

Overall, the space was designed perfectly – it gave the sense that it may have once been a home but time had stripped all remnants of life from it, leaving a husk. It worked, there wasn’t an obvious attempt to make it look scary or ominous, it just felt naturally discarded.

One thing however did cause us a bit of an issue (and I’m sure the guys are already well aware of this) and that was the sound design. The story takes place during one of those stereotypical stormy nights – nothing wrong with that as it sets a great atmosphere. However, it was way too loud to the point that the actors were, on more than one occasion, battling with it to be heard. We know exactly why it was at the level it was – remember how we mentioned the distance of the show to the theatre bar? The commotion there bled through the set’s walls with very little resistance. In the show’s few moments of quiet, the sound emanating from the bar was clearly audible. It’s a bit of a catch 22 – crank up the audio to levels where the actors may occasionally be inaudible or allow the much more noticeable noise from the bar to soundtrack the play. So it does feel slightly redundant to bring it up. However, it did cause us the odd issue so worth mentioning, even if there isn’t exactly a clean solution. That said, if there are avenues that the team can explore for the future, they absolutely should.

Of course, the one thing that we haven’t yet mentioned is those moments when the spirits present themselves. We personally think the team got the balance of this perfect. The scenes where they appeared were staged brilliantly using light (or lack thereof), sound and the space itself to toy with the audience and there was one pitch perfect instance of misdirection. At the same time, the team knew where to reel it in and this worked on two levels. The visceral interludes never out-shadowed the story that was being told and it wasn’t so scary as to alienate a more general audience. For sure, if you don’t like ‘scary’ shows, this won’t change your mind but the team don’t push the scares too far – this is more likely to play to a casual audience in the same way that The Woman in Black does, bolstered in no small part by the story that they were telling.  And The Woman in Black is a good point of reference, both shows are period pieces but we enjoyed Take Me Home far better, the short running time and lack of pretense makes for a more entertaining experience.

Overall, we were very impressed with Take Me Home; the storytelling was confident, the set design wasn’t overblown and the cast all acquitted themselves well. We understand that this is the first show that this team have attempted and, on that level, it’s a roaring success and an extremely confident debut. We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on what comes next from these guys!

Liked:

Interesting, tight story

Atmosphere and set design

Disliked:

Sound was definitely an issue at certain junctures

Take Me Home - Horror Within
  • Originality
  • Scare Factor
  • Staff
  • Execution
  • Value for Money
4

Summary

We weren't sure what to expect of 'Take Me Home', the low-key marketing definitely helped maintain a sense of mystery right up until the point that we sat down. But we were pleasantly surprised when we witnessed a well-crafted show! Keep an eye on what comes next from the guys behind this one!

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