Spine-tingling, generically unclassifiable theatre tribute to the world of horror movies
Jakop Ahlbom’s blend of dance, mime, acrobatics and illusion defies easy classification. In his 2014 show 'Horror', back at the Peacock after a brief Mime Festival appearance last year, all those elements come together beautifully for a truly unsettling piece of theatre. It’s notoriously difficult to create genuine frights on stage, but Swedish-born, Netherlands-based Ahlbom – a lifelong horror film fan – takes a cinematic approach and draws inspiration from some of the greatest scary movies for his show, to exhilarating effect.
A woman returns to the deserted home where she grew up, with two male friends. Something terrible happened to the woman’s sister here, and her vengeful ghost soon makes itself known – mysteriously moving objects are just the start of it. Supernatural scenes of the girls’ brutal, repressed childhood at the hands of their sadistic parents start overwhelming reality. By the time a pair of giggly newlyweds arrive looking for a place to shelter, the stage is set for a catastrophe.
Pretty much all the horror tropes are here, and it’s fun to play spot the classic film reference – the spider walk from 'The Exorcist', Sadako from 'The Ring', a touch of 'Oculus', a hint of 'The Shining', the possessed hand from 'Evil Dead II' etc. But it’s testament to Ahlbom’s narrative and stagecraft skills that this doesn’t end up feeling like a stitched-together 'best of' show. Mainly, in fact, you wonder how the increasingly grisly effects are being achieved so convincingly on a live stage.
Ahlbom’s cast – a mix of actors, dancers, mime artists and circus performers, are excellent, particularly Gwen Langenberg as the terrifying ghostly sister, who creaks, ticks and whirrs like an insect as she jerks and scuttles around the stage. The denouement is a full-on, skilfully choreographed fight between the sister and the undead we’ve witnessed being created – complete with twitching zombie bride and much axe-wielding. Crucially, Ahlbom never takes things too seriously – the result is bloody good fun.
BY: SIOBHAN MURPHY