Halloween is nearly upon us once more which means that there are a plethora of horror films out in the cinema and for theatre-lovers, the London Horror Festival is on and last night I dipped my toe into the festival, with a visit to the Old Red Lion to see The Wicker Hamper.
Written by Ed Hartland, The Wicker Hamper tells the story of Marcie, a young, innocent girl (Hannah Grace May) who has moved to the island of Winterisle, where she is due to take up a position for Lady Winterisle (Bethany Greenwood). Marcie, checks into the Bates Hotel & Golf Club where the owner, Norman (Donncha Kearney) welcomes her to the island. Later, Marcie hears arguing and then a scream and after a less than helpful discussion with Room Service (Sophie Hughes) Marcie calls the police who send a God fearing Christian sergeant (Elliot Thomas) to investigate. What will the results of the investigation be and what is the connection between the wicker hamper and the closure of the local theatre?
The Wicker Hamper is not so much a comedy horror story, it is a series of scenes that pay homage to some of the greatest horror films of all time. Ed Harland must be a real fan because, as well as the obvious connections to ‘The Wicker Man’ and ‘Psycho’, we have elements of ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ to name but two more. On the whole, the play works well but I think that at times the pacing was a little out, and the narrative didn’t flow as smoothly as you would expect. However, there were elements I loved, particularly the pre-show and interval announcements which I thought were really funny and nicely written and played by the voices of Conor Boru and Octavia Gilmore and the scene in the graveyard where Lady Winterisle tells the whole plan to her helper – who already knows it and says so quite vociferously – while the police sergeant hides behind the world’s smallest gravestone. I thought the ending was really well thought out and written as well, I really, really, really loved the “I’ll be Right Back Song, with the splendid lyrics: “I’ll be right back” is sure to get you killed. If you say those words your blood will soon be spilled. By chainsaw, axe or massive baseball bat. You won’t survive if you say “I’ll be right back” something that should be played to every character in every horror movie that ever gets made.
Directors Stuart Vincent and Ed Hartland use a minimum of scenery and props to create the story and make the most of the various doors in the old Red Lion to move the cast around. I do have a quibble with the costumes, well in fact with one costume. It was great that Elliot had a policeman’s uniform jacket but it would have been better if the jacket was carrying sergeant stripes. I know it’s a minor thing but incorrect uniforms are one of my pet hates.
Turning to the actors and, whilst they were all good, special mention has to go to Donncha Kearney who played a variety of characters extremely well. I thought he was quite terrifying as Norman Bates – it was definitely in the eyes. As Scaramouche, he was really loveable and quite endearing and as the priest, well he was definitely a few nails short of a full cross. Really fantastic acting from Donncha. On the whole, the cast worked well together but I sensed some nervousness, or possibly lack of rehearsal, on a couple of occasions, as characters talked over each other’s lines. It didn’t happen often but was slightly noticeable at times.
Summing up then whilst I really did enjoy The Wicker Hamper, both my companion and I felt it was a play that needed a little bit more work before it became the excellent finished product it has the capacity to be. We both liked the references to other horror movies and the nice way they were moulded together. There was a lot of nicely written and acted humour and overall, this theatrical visit was both very pleasant and a great opener for me to the London Horror Festival.
Review by Terry Eastham
Stack 10 Theatre proudly presents The Wicker Hamper, an evening of laughs, screams and blood on Winterisle, an island off the coast of…an island off the coast. When Winterisle loses the funding for its theatre, there’s only one thing that can bring it back…a human sacrifice!
Marcie, the perfect sacrifice checks into the Bates Hotel & Golf Club, Winterisle’s best (and only) holiday destination. When the hotelier disappears Marcie is forced to investigate with a police officer from the mainland, not knowing that each step brings them closer and closer to The Wicker Hamper!
Join Stack 10 Theatre in their latest production, inspired by classics from the horror genre like Psycho and The Wicker Man, and remember…
“I’ll be right back” is sure to get you killed
If you say those words your blood will soon be spilled
By chainsaw, axe or massive baseball bat
You won’t survive if you say “I’ll be right back”
Friday 21st – Sunday 23rd October at 7pm