The Old Red Lion Theatre is a classic black-box above a pub, with limited seating but an intimate feel. Well-known in London for providing exceedingly cheap and good comedy, every two weeks on a Sunday they have some of the best comedians in to do stand-up. London Horror Festival is presenting three weeks full of live entertainment here, ranging from LGBTQ cabaret to play-writing competitions, from magic to a virtual reality film experience. An all-inclusive Halloween festival, there is something in available in every aspect of theatre.
In Fred Strangebone’s Freakshow, comedian Ben Whitehead presents character Fred Strangebone. He takes us through a tale of a freak show he joined in his town, introducing us to different characters along the way. A one-man variety show of character comedy, clowning and spoken word verse, Whitehead is hilarious and heart-warming.
Firstly we meet a walrus, the walrus that’s trying to attract more punters in the freak show. Next there’s the White Mystral, he tells us a rhyme about a sister born inside her sister. After that we meet Fred’s brother the cleaner, who finds some babies in a rubbish bin and later, the developer who is taking over the freak show which is failing so miserably. Although presented by an array of curiously bizarre characters, the beauty of comedy is that everybody in the room is having a great time. Some aspects are funnier than others, but the nature of comedy is that it is so personal and subjective, so I can genuinely say Whitehead is a great performer.
Whitehead is warm and inviting as a host, as Strangebone he is a loveable goon who is awkwardly amazing. Each character shows a different aspect of comedy, the White Mystral is well-spoken and presented, Fred’s brother the cleaner is a classic clown with little speaking. He works well with responding and talking to the audience, and the array of characters play to his strengths. Whilst the space is an entirely empty bare black room, he utilises lighting and sound well. It is important to stress that as a single man he has created an entirely thorough show, which could seem sporadic at points, but here feels complete. The structure and different characters keep us interacting with him at all times, while his homegrown ideas such as costume changing whilst his voiceover speaks, allow us to stick with him and trust him as a comedian. We are in exceedingly capable hands with Whitehead.
London Horror Festival: Fred Strangebone’s Freakshow played at the Old Red Lion Theatre until 12 of October. For more information and tickets to the festival, see London Horror Festival website.