The horror showcase began, as these things often do, with an eerie butler-like figure serving as a narrator to connect the five stories. In the first five minutes he lets slip a joke, just to break the tension, and then another, and then another. Each one is funnier and more disarming than the last, and soon the space is echoing with laughter not screams of fright.
This character, played with impeccable timing by Andrew Skipper, transitioned seamlessly into the first story in which his character begins reciting The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe and begins to lament the fact that he lacks the inspiration to create his own version.
I’ll try to be as vague as possible with the references to the comedy and reveals because half the fun is not knowing what comes next. Suffice to say, however, when the reveal of his ‘raven’ does come it’s hilarious. The whole scene (and indeed the rest of the interconnecting segments) are underscored with the same rhyme scheme as Allan Poe’s poem, giving the whole story a sense of authenticity and a gothic sheen. This poetic narration could easily sway into melodrama but is kept firm by a combination of quality writing and the conviction of the delivery.
The show moves at a breakneck pace, rarely pausing to take a breath or to even let the laughter die down. The next story, entitled ‘Lover’s lane’ tells the familiar story of a couple in a car looking out onto the city from a spot in the woods, all the while an axe-murderer is hiding in the backseat. The scene plays out and the audience thinks that it can’t possibly get sillier than that, but they thought wrong.
The next story, ‘The mob’ is one of the only sketches to feature almost the entire cast. It takes place outside a Vampire’s castle as an angry mob attempts to psyche themselves up to confront him. This is where the humour becomes truly witty and Pythonesque as arguing and chaos begin to ensue. The performances here are really fantastic as all the cast are allowed to show their comic timing and wit in a dialogue heavy scene.
The penultimate piece, ‘The Hermit’, is perhaps the most genuinely creepy of the stories. A couple of lines stand out but for the most part this is the most serious work. This appears to be because it was written and directed independently of the rest of the production, but the shift in tone becomes a welcome break amidst the laughter. John Henry Falle’s performance as the eponymous hermit is wonderfully unhinged and unsettling.
The final story, a parody of Alien, caps the comedy off with the most silliness and left the audience giggling. Overall, this is a wonderfully clever and unpretentious work, with no loftier goal than to make you laugh.
Knock Knock is playing The Old Red Lion until 30 October. For more information and tickets, see Old Red Lion Theatre website.