Review – Terror 2009: Theatre of Horror and Grand Guignol – Southwark Playhouse

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Last night I went with J and two friends to see Southwark Playhouse‘s early Halloween offering, “Terror 2009: Theatre of Horror and Grand Guignol.” Back in Seattle I used to attend Open Circle theater’s regular Halloween offering of HP Lovecraft plays, and I was eager to recreate the experience. Apparently a lot of other people were eager for some chills & thrills as the evening was sold out. While I like the energy of a full theater, piling in to the darkened room (supposedly an electrical issue but in fact an artistic decision) was a huge hassle; I don’t like trampling over people to get to a seat, I don’t like being forced to scoot down to the ass end of a 15 person bench when I’ve chosen to sit where I can see, and I don’t like being forced to walk over people in near total darkness to find your own seat.

Things got off to a grand start as the usheress battered to death a “patron” who’d failed to turn off his cell phone. We then progressed to play number one, my favorite of the evening and worth the price of admission alone: Lucy Kirkwood’s “Psychogeography,” which was sort of on the traditional haunted house lines only … way creepier. I don’t want to ruin the fun, but I have to give credit to the amazing design of this piece, which created a full environment for being spooked – sound, visual, touch … even the trains going overhead added to the atmosphere. The lighting design, basically a flashlight, a half-covered lantern, and an overhead light (which was rarely on), was perfect – guiding the audience’s eyes here and there and hiding things very effectively from us. But none of this would have meant much without the great script and the convincing performances (which I can’t credit as I’ve lost my program). The psychological dynamics between the two characters was very believable (after a bit of grinding at the first) and I competely bought their relationship and the tensions within it, which was crucial to making this piece work. High fives to all for a great play.

Next was Mark Ravenhill’s bizarre monologue “The Experiment,” which charted a convoluted tale of torture and amoral behavior. It was uncomfortable and had the possibility of feeling very ugly if the protagonist had seemed more in touch with reality, but fortunately its shifting, Rashomon-like qualities kept me wondering what the real story was all the way through and didn’t affect me much emotionally.

Returning from intermission, we had the very tight drama of Anthony Nielsen’s “Twisted,” a sort of “Silence of the Lamb” jailhouse psychodrama which left me wondering just who was the victim. While I felt the interviewer was too young to be a seasoned psychologist, there’s no doubt that the tension that developed between her and the man she was interviewing became very real, and I found myself very caught up in the action (not to mention trying to work out the puzzle of “what’s really going on here?”).

Afterwards, I actually hustled my ass out of the theater to miss the Neil LaBute “Some White Chick:” extreme sexual violence doesn’t sit well with me. My husband reported that it wasn’t worth staying for, so I’m glad I saved myself the 40 minutes or so. As it was, I had a great evening anyway and really felt this evening was well worth the thirteen quid I shelled out.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Wednesday, October 21st. The last performance is on Saturday October 24th, but be warned: Thursday is sold out and Friday and Saturday probably will, too, so shop now if you are interested.)

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One Response to “Review – Terror 2009: Theatre of Horror and Grand Guignol – Southwark Playhouse”

  1. Mini-review – Grand Guignol “Screams of Terror” – Exeter Alternative Theate at London Horror Festival | Life in the Cheap Seats - Webcowgirl's London theatre reviews Says:

    […] threads of human motivations. Grand Guignol can be about mad scientists working in laboratories or the ghosts of serial killers, but what’s really terrifying is how the behavior of normal human beings can snap under […]

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