The Horror! The Horror!
Fresh from their success with As Ye Sow at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, Theatre of the Damned have brought The Horror! The Horror! to the oldest surviving music hall in London. At Wilton’s Music Hall, set in a cramped alley in Shadwell, is the perfect location for this piece of sight-specific, period, live-action horror. With its crumbling brick, peeling paint, and visible support-structure, just walking into the building is like stepping back in time some hundred and fifty years.
The show begins in the adjacent pub as we are enjoying pints and taking in the bawdyhouse atmosphere no one probably had to work very hard to evoke from the packed, friendly space. Before long characters are among us, members of a Victorian music hall company. There are jokesters, strumpets, and the blow-hard company manager laying down exposition, telling jokes, and flirting with us while we wait for the show-proper to begin. When it does, it does so to the accompaniment of Jeffrey Mayhew’s fantastic turn-of-the-century score.
The show flows from room to room of the ageing building and we follow, mute observers as things fall apart from the inside out, the darker nature beneath the greasepaint veneer showing itself ever more fully as the night wears on.
Stage horror is a difficult genre in a time when CG movies and 3D video-games have set our expectations for gore and flash at a standard difficult to achieve in the flesh. The only way theatre can compete is with well-written, well-acted parts that take advantage of the aliveness of the medium.
Theatre of the Damned are at their best when they’re exercising their craft – saucy maids and moustachioed funny men giving us glimpses of what it was surely like to leer and clap along in the days when music hall was the entertainment par excellence.
For further information on this sold-out show, visit Wilton’s Music Hall here.