If it’s subtle, sophisticated, spine-tingling chills that you are looking for, then Fright Nights is probably not for you. If, however, you are more interested in a gleeful, ketchup sodden, gore-fest then Sofa Productions’ brand new fringe show could be to your liking. I saw the show off the Camden beaten track, down a dark alleyway, through the battered doorway of Theatro Technis and into the darkened, dusty, police-tape-festooned auditorium.
The show takes the form of four mini-plays, tenuously glued together by the concept of a group of local “yoof” breaking into an abandoned theatre and finding an old play script. For a laugh they decide to stage impromptu performances of the plays within, using a selection of ramshackle, dirty props. Then things start to get very dark indeed.
First up on the (as yet stain-free) stage is The Circus. When two long lost brothers reunite it should be an occasion for rejoicing; however, it soon becomes clear that one of them is nursing a terrible secret. A circus is a great excuse to break out the glittering costumes, sinister make-up and creepy fairground music, and Sofa take full advantage. Add to that some erotic shadow play and a genuinely astonishing ending and you should have a recipe for horror success, but for some reason it was not quite as scary as it should have been.
Thankfully the fear factor was back with a bang in the next play, Madman. As the prisoner lurched around his cell, clutching himself in his agonies of grief, guilt and rage, it was impossible not to feel for his torment. Though most of it was painful to watch rather than actually frightening, they managed to throw in a brilliantly well-timed and executed scare which nearly had me hurtling out of my seat.
So far, so relatively blood-free – thankfully, Vampire Night put a stop to that. Yes, the story may have been so ludicrous that the audience was snorting with laughter during the more melodramatic moments, but who doesn’t love a bit of enforced, blood-soaked dentistry?
After that, there was no stopping their blood lust. The final play, Bloody Celebration, is aptly titled. Knives and drills were brandished, screams and choking gurgles rent the air and the stage was simply awash with gore and severed body parts. Now the Kogan Academy of Dramatic Arts graduates really came into their own. Their stories may be flawed, their accents occasionally nomadic and – in one memorable case – their sideburns disturbing, but they know how to do a proper slasher fest. The set-up is suspenseful and the denouement as horrific, terrifying and revolting as could be wished. It’s hard to pull off a credible tongue extraction in any circumstances, let alone in a low-budget production with the audience only feet away, but they manage it with demonic aplomb.
Sadly, just as they were really finding their feet, the production came to an end. Even the hapless young trespassers/handy scene-shifters were nowhere to be seen, their brief story-arc apparently forgotten.
Fright Nights is an interesting concept with a lot of potential. The lighting, staging and acting skills are all there. A little breaking of the fourth wall would go a long way towards upping the scare quota, particularly in such an intimate space. And if the stories were adapted to let the cast do what they do best – playing people like themselves in real-life situations which spin out of control, then scaring the bejesus out of everyone with a shower of blood capsules and over the top gothic horror – this production could certainly become a cult hit.
Review by Genni Trickett
WARNING! Not for the faint of heart… The scariest show in the fringe! Can you handle blood and gore? 4 horror short stories never seen on stage before. Prepare yourself for an evening of pure terror as you are drawn into a world where fear will freeze your blood and send shivers down your spine.
Performances 24-28 August 2016 9:30 pm
26 Crowndale Road
London, NW1 1TT