The Halloween Project at the Ugly Duck
As one of the top things to do this Halloween, according to Timeout, The Halloween Project at The Ugly Duck did not disappoint. Set in a stripped-down warehouse furnished only by pumpkins, abstract art pieces and hidden audio devices to send you on spooky quests, the venue lent itself from the beginning to the unnerving and unsettling. Within this arena was a crowd of eager-to-be-scared attendees and actors eerily muttering incomprehensibly, drawing on the floors and, with extreme skill, suspending their half-naked bodies from poles in gothically contorted positions. Fright night had begun.
The project featured a collaboration of different performance and theatre companies based around the dark, the grotesque and the unexplained. The meat of the project lay behind three doors – six small, immersive theatrical vignettes where the audience were led into the scene and the door was firmly shut behind them. Involvement stretched from Sam Jenkins-Shaw’s fantastic study in which Macbeth reacted directly to to the audience as the ghostly apparition at his dinner table, to viewers sitting in a seance as whiskey is drunk and enemies’ names burnt within a voodoo doll.
The first piece in the grotesque room really stole the show, with Stitch in Time Theatre’s Bathsheba Piepe giving a bone-chilling interpretation of Lady Macbeth desperately trying to absolve her sin in blood-tinted water, with a scream that could challenge even the most beloved horror heroines (sorry Janet Leigh).
The production was impressive, with a lot of effort by all to fulfill the Halloween brief. The musicians, often accompanied on pumpkin percussion, provided an eerie soundtrack to the gothic plays, pumpkin carving and face painting festivities.
Where The Halloween Project fell short was in its lack of preparation and guidance, most obvious in the ghost stories that finished the night. These failed to capitalise on the opportunity for a scare, feeling at times more like an architectural history lesson. The spooky atmosphere wasn’t well maintained as punctual audience members arrived to see many performers only just setting up. The scenes themselves, though faultlessly acted, could have benefited from a little more time to really develop the stories and use the immersive aspect to its full scare potential.
For something spooky, entertaining and different to do on Halloween this night delivered, with a set of highly skilled and exciting actors to watch out for and young directors that are pushing the boundaries of theatre (and boldly breaking down that fourth wall).
The Halloween Project is on at the Ugly Duck from 30th October until the 31st October, for further information or to book visit here.