Horror – Jakop Ahlbom Company: Peacock Theatre, London, 25 January 2016

Schlocking hell

Judith Hazeleger discovers someone else's pubic hair in the bathtub in Jakop Ahlbom's Horror. Photo by Paulina Matusiak & Eddy Wenting

Judith Hazeleger discovers someone else’s pubic hair in the bathtub. Photo by Paulina Matusiak & Eddy Wenting

If you ever wanted to see someone have their intestine pulled out through their mouth, then this might be the thing for you. Don’t think, however, that Jakop Ahlbom’s Horror is some kind of carnival freak show – it’s far more intelligent and way cleverer than that.

It’s more of a play without words, an updated parlour ghost story with domestic and child abuse fuelling its dramatic core. Actually, the confusing story is not the work’s strongest point although it helps contain the creepy atmosphere and gives us characters we can relate to and empathise with.

What really gives Horror its oomph is all the ridiculously inventive visual and aural effects. Without giving too much away there are things like a hand with a life of its own, people appearing in several places at once, blood spurting out all over the place, way too many people in a bath at the same time and a dazzlingly unexpected levitation trick. There are tons of others but what makes them all so special is the immaculate timing and the unexpected nature of what you’re witnessing. One moment you can’t bear to look, then you’re laughing and then you’re in total disbelief at what happened.

The show is an homage to the horror movie genre and is packed full of references from classic films such as The Ring, The Grudge and The Shining and also parodies like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Addams Family. Consequently the staging is strikingly cinematic in approach with a multi-layered, highly detailed set that even features a wall doubling up as a black and white movie screen. Yuri Schreuders’ lighting is frighteningly effective and Wim Conradi’s choice of music and sound effects pull you every which way.

All the cast are excellent, particularly Gwen Langenberg as the ‘Ring’ style anti-hero, and although the ending is a bit lame the journey getting there is absolutely extraordinary. A bloody brilliant bit of theatre.

Horror is part of the London International Mime Festival and runs at The Peacock Theatre in London until 26 January 2016. Tickets can be bought on the Sadler’s Wells website.

Gerard Davis

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