After their success with last year’s Attack of the Giant Leeches, The Lampoons are back, with another classic horror film crudely condensed into almost two hours of slapdash, faux-improvised humour. House on Haunted Hill is a re-telling of the 1959 film of the same name, starring Vincent Price as an eccentric millionaire who invites guests to stay for a night in his haunted house, enticing them with a $10,000 reward should they survive till morning. As the night draws in, more and more strange happenings occur, the guests begin to believe that their generous and gentlemanly host may not be all he seems.
Written by, and starring, Oliver Malam, this production is remarkably messy, but not in a bad way. In fact, around half of all the jokes in the show rely on missed queues, rubbish props and acknowledging their lack of budget. All accidentally on purpose, of course. This is funny in areas, where the actors are less forced with it, but can sometimes feel like we are being beaten over the head with the production’s incompetence. However, they certainly make use of what they do have. There is some clever shadow play at work, and a simple set of four doors is utilised for optimum Benny Hill-style comedic effect.
However, the cast of four works around and with one another like a well-oiled machine. The play has a unique offbeat rhythm to it which all the actors implement with their own quirky additions & ‘slip-ups’. Josh Harvey is the loudest and a crowd favourite and is fearlessly ridiculous as Captain Lawrence, a deranged airline pilot with a jarringly funny backstory. Adam Elliott also shines as the Doctor, with his bizarrely alluring and truly terrible southern accent. Malam is gladly more subdued, but as enthusiastic as his cast mates, while Christina Baston is a welcome female presence as both Nora and Mrs Price, often rolling her eyes and tutting at they boys’ antics (both in character and out), and occasionally joining in. They regularly break the fourth wall, and the audience are encouraged to interact with the cast – if you prefer more traditional theatre in which an actor sticks staunchly to their role and tells a serious story, then this is not the production for you.
But, if you’re after something out of the ordinary and less rigid theatre that doesn’t take itself too seriously, then The Lampoons put on a show you’ll love. I expect House on Haunted Hill was an attempt to emulate their success last year, and having missed Attack of the Giant Leeches, I can’t compare the two, but I can say that House on Haunted Hill has a unique style that is undeniably fun. It’s a bit silly, sometimes cheesy – but it isn’t too proud to acknowledge its flaws, and the cast’s belief in the show and the fun they seem to be having performing it, is infectious.
House on Haunted Hill is playing at the Leicester Square Theatre until November 11 2017.
Photo: Headshot Toby