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Round Up: Get spooked

Posted on 26 October 2011 by Laura Turner

There’s something in the air as the nights draw in and a spellbinding potion of tricks and treats is concocted for theatregoers. Gone are the days when Halloween was about wandering the streets in costume; the coffin door is open to a whole host of theatrical events that transport you back in time to sample the chilling terrors of the past. But it’s not all about the fear factor as nostalgic cabaret acts and black comedy spoof showcases dominate the line up. AYT rounds up of some of the best places and spaces to get spooked in the capital and across the UK. If you dare, of course.

Distraction Theatre Company’s Terror Tours

Promising “thrills, kills, blood, guts and gore”, acclaimed regional theatre company Distraction takes to the damp caves, derelict castles and haunted woods of the English countryside to present its Terror Tours 2011. Audiences “join a satanic guide to step boldly into the darkness and delve into the depths of hell before returning safely to the land of the living… if you’re lucky”. Artistic Directors Rebecca Gadsby and Kat Glenn guarantee that fear seekers will experience “a whole new type of entertainment” through their innovative blend of walking tour, live performance, audience interaction and traditional story telling. With the proviso that the tour is unsuitable for pregnant ladies, under 12s and those with heart conditions, this is certainly not one for the faint-hearted.

Terror Tours emerge from the underworld at Poole’s Cavern, Buxton (28-30 October, 6.30pm, 7.30pm, 8.30pm); Conisbrough Castle, Doncaster (29-30 October, 5.30pm, 7.30pm, 9.30pm); California Country Park, Finchampstead, Berkshire (29-30 October, 7pm, 8pm, 9pm). More information and tickets available directly from the Terror Tours website.

Terror 2011 at Soho Theatre

Crank up the chills with this “unique blend of short horror plays and cabaret for the 21st century”. Presented in the theatre’s downstairs nightclub-esque performance space, the evening is inspired by the “notorious and frightening” Victorian tradition of Grand Guignol (named after Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol in the heart of the Parisian red-light district, which specialised in graphic, amoral horror shows from 1897 until 1962). Seabright Productions and The Sticking Place present a showcase of some of the UK’s most acclaimed young playwrights, including Lucy Kirkwood and Jack Thorne, in this spine-tingling nostalgic treat. According to host Desmond O’Connor, “Terror 2011 has more gore than Saw, more screams than Scream and more laughs than a night with The Inbetweeners.” For fans of new writing, Parisian pastiche and some very twisted tales, Soho Theatre is the place for you this Halloween.

Terror 2011 runs at the Soho Theatre until Sat 5 November. Adults Only. Tickets available from the Soho Theatre’s website

Festival of the Dead at BAC

Get immersed in the world of corpses, spirits and the supernatural at Battersea Arts Centre with this year’s nabokov Arts Club The Festival of the Dead. In a collaboration between nabokov, theatre ensemble Tangled Feet and playwright Polly Stenham, this bespoke theatrical event is “part ritual, part wedding, part insane fiesta”. Party from 9pm till 2am as “the living celebrate with the souls of the departed and embrace the supernatural” with interactive comedy from Bad Physics and absurdist devised work from The Wind-Up Collective. An experimental evening of entertainment throughout the labyrinth grandeur of BAC that culminates in music from The Mystery Jets on Saturday and comedy from Radio 1’s Tom Deacon. Magic, mystery and mayhem in Lavender Hill.

The nabokov Arts Club is at 9pm on Friday 28 and Saturday 29 October. More information and tickets from Battersea Arts Centre’s website. Book in advance for £5 off the £20 ticket price.

The Veil at the National Theatre

A homage to the Victorian ghost stories, The Veil is an atmospheric piece from the pen of Conor McPherson. Set in Ireland in 1822, the play escalates into a terrifying séance as a young Reverend arrives at a crumbling house alive with the spirits of the past and meets a betrothed girl haunted by strange voices. A ghost story with a difference, McPherson’s new play “weaves Ireland’s troubled colonial history” into a story about “the search for love, the transcendental and the circularity of time”. Full of terrifying twists and turns, there’s no escape from your seat as the subtle horror of this exciting new play brings the mysticism of the past alive. Ideal for fans of The Woman in Black or readers of The Turn of the Screw.

The Veil plays at the Lyttleton Theatre in rep until Sunday 11 December. More information and tickets from the National Theatre’s website.

London Horror Festival

The Courtyard Theatre plays “host to all things grisly and gruesome” as it welcomes a festival of “live theatrical horror and the macabre” to its stage. Nineteenth-century Paris dominates the line-up once again with London-based performance group Theatre of the Damned presenting Revenge of the Grand Guignol. Featuring four short tales of ghosts, gore, madness and mutilation inspired by the theatre of the macabre, the production pushes boundaries of sensory experience; noise artist Corpse Lights has created an original soundtrack to be heard alongside a unique “smell track”. Directors Stewart Pringle and Tom Richards note that “theatre is a potent medium for developing fear, intrigue and outrage”. They wanted to create an “affecting and visceral experience” but if this is too intense for you, the festival offers a host of other tricky treats, including black comedy Possession is Nine Tenths and the intriguing “spoof lecture” Zombie Science 1Z.

The London Horror Festival plays at The Courtyard Theatre, London, from 25 October – 27 November. Tickets available from The Courtyard Theatre’s website.

Halloween West End Theatre Tour

If being trapped in your seat sounds like too much for you, TheatreFix is offering you the opportunity to “discover all the ghostly secrets the West End is hiding behind its spooky theatre doors”. A walking tour with a difference, this is a guided exploration of “the ghostly hauntings” and “theatrical superstitions” of some of the capital’s best-loved theatres. Hear tales of woe and stories of gore full of “murdered actors, severed heads and a phantom prompter” as you wander the eerie streets of late-night Theatreland. Meet your guide at a top-secret location and prepare for a spooky site or two…

Book your ticket and discover the meeting location by emailing Over 12s only. Come prepared for all weathers.

Laura Turner

Laura Turner

Laura trained as a writer with Hull Truck Theatre, BBC New Talent and the Royal Court Theatre. She has worked extensively with touring theatre company Chapterhouse, where she is currently Writer in Residence. Laura has previously written for BBC EastEnders: E20 and her adaptation of Jane Eyre toured theatres with Hull Truck Theatre Company at the start of 2013. She is now working on an original play for the theatre, as well as projects with Bolton Octagon, Middle Child Theatre and The Ashton Group, Cumbria. She has been long-listed for the Bruntwood Prize for Playwrighting and the Adrienne Benham Award.

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Review: Sunday Morning at the Centre of the World

Posted on 12 April 2011 by Francesca Beckett


It might seem strange to review a show without technically ‘seeing’ it, but unfortunately today I have no choice as I was blindfolded throughout the performance. No, I was not kidnapped by some innovative immersive theatre production, merely one of the audience members who chose to experience Bad Physics’ latest rather than view it. And I have to say, it was the most enjoyable evening I’ve spent not watching something.

Sunday Morning at the Centre of the World is a play for voices by Louis de Bernières, and until now has only been performed once (on BBC Radio 3) since its completion in 2001. The script contains vivid descriptions of the inhabitants of Earlsfield, where de Bernières lived until the success of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and Bad Physics has taken this treasure of a script and turned it into a trove – you can choose to be blindfolded and experience the narrative through sounds, smells and touch.

There is, of course, the option of seeing how they trick your senses to believe there is a cat purring around your ankles, or a woman singing in her bathtub; for those less comfortable with the thought of being blind in the company of strangers it must prove an interesting sight. Unable to resist the potential for amusing anecdotes, I opted for the blindfold.

As we are led into the space we are greeted with traditional Sunday morning smells – wafted in with coffee and bacon. From then on it is an exploration of the senses as the cast create a cocoon of noises, aromas and sensations for the next fifty five minutes.

Some moments have touches of perfection. The market scene, for instance, had me convinced the room was filled with more than eight performers – the timing had to be perfect for it to work so well and the polish was evident. Evidence of ingenuity was present throughout, with beautiful touches and ideas executed with professionalism and flair. It was wonderful to imagine your own space, your own set of faces and costumes for the characters (in the same way you would when reading) and to anticipate what high jinx the company would reveal to you next.

I was only disappointed by what felt like a lack of investigation into deeper tactile elements, especially after some interesting physical exploration early on. There were also some stimuli repeated too often: we all got a bit fed up of being buffered by the ‘wind’, especially after an hour under a cold railway arch. These, however, are silly niggles and in no way should detract from what is an accomplished piece, especially from such a young company.

Poignant moments flowed effortlessly into humour and the lives of Earlsfield’s inhabitants sprang from the darkness on the other side of my blindfold. The play was descriptive rather than plot-driven, but this is irrelevant and my concentration never wandered – except possibly to wonder why fellow audience members just started laughing…

While I can’t guarantee that watching this play will provide you with as much entertainment, I highly recommend getting some shut eye (geddit?) down at the Southwark Playhouse soon.

Until April 16th at the Southwark Playhouse


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