It was a very uncharacteristically warm and sticky October night at Camden Town’s Etcetera Theatre for my final night reporting from the London Horror Festival. There were two shows on the bill, both quite dark, but also quite different.
The Off-Off-Off Broadway Company’s Peaceful is a Victorian haunted house yarn. Laura Louise Baker is Ethel Charlesan, an old and crippled woman who lives alone in a rambling and creaky house. Convinced that she can hear ghosts she invites her estate manager Mr Coburn (Polis Loizou) to a séance held by the exotic lilac-gloved medium Mr De Villiers (Jaacq Hugo). Coburn recognises De Villiers as a fraud and the two come to a mutually beneficial arrangement before the séance kicks off, but is De Villiers just trying to hoodwink the old bat by playacting or is there something darker trying to break through?
More Henry James than MR, Peaceful was pretty intense stuff.
Find out more about the Off-Off-Off Broadway Company here.
However, I have saved the best to last.
Greywing House is a one-woman show by Molly Beth Morossa. Greywing House is also a rambling guesthouse overlooking the sea. On taking our seats, we are greeted by Miss Amelia Scrimshaw, seemingly a perfectly normal well-turned-out 1930s seaside landlady who would not look out of place in an episode of Poirot. Amelia’s conversation seems fairly innocuous at first, but gradually, as she chats about the house rules, local attractions and the mysterious and bedridden Mr Thurston from upstairs, we are drawn into a world of Satanic ritual, insanity and strange creatures.
Far from being the slightly unhinged Gothic of Daphne du Maurier that I had expected from the programme notes, stage set and costume, Morossa grabs hold and drags us deep into the full-pelt craziness of Mervyn Peake and HP Lovecraft, but all the time keeping up a chirpy British middle-class persona. This is both funny and chilling. As one satisfied customer remarked on the way out: ‘A masterclass in creepiness’!
You can find out more about Molly Beth Morossa, cabaret and performance artist here.
Review by Simon Ball
Connect with Simon: @RealShipsCook or here