Lots of blood, lots of fun

Jakop Ahlbom Company in Horror; Peacock Theatre, London
January 25, 2016
Maggie Foyer

If you want your horror with lots of blood, axe-wielding humans and ghosts, mayhem and madness accompanied by weird sounds, Jakop Alhbom’s Horror, is the show to get your teeth into.

A young girl returns to the deserted family home with her partner and a male friend. The setting is right: pouring rain, glimpses of the ghostly figures caught in the intermittent lightning flashes, period furniture draped in dust sheets – oh, and someone has stupidly left an axe lying on the old box television.

Ahlbom notes the particular challenges in trying to get the visceral scream-inducing horror that film can deliver in a theatre production. However he has a few tricks up his sleeve like very effective use of video. When a terrified man switches on the TV he views himself. Figures appear and disappear as camera angles change. After a close encounter with a ghost the young man’s hand takes on its own demonic life leaving a trail of darkly comic destruction. The drama of his life is now out of his control. This leads to some of the Ahlbom’s most effective physical theatre but finally the axe plays its part severing the hand with an impressive fountain of blood. However the renegade hand is now on the loose and returns at intervals until in a final surreal moment he calmly sews the now tamed appendage back onto his arm.

HorrorPhoto Paulina Matusiak and Eddy Wenting
Photo Paulina Matusiak and Eddy Wenting

A cleverly constructed set has a living room in the foreground, kitchen/bathroom screened off behind and a garden revealed behind the curtained window – so lots of opportunities for the hardworking team of eight mime artists to play many parts in many situations.

A bridal couple arrive to shelter from the rain – logic is not a strong feature of the horror genre – and are sucked into the madness. Splashes of blood look so effective on a white wedding dress. The dead sister and the live sister morph and reshape, benign and demonic characters flit through the rooms and nothing is quite what it seems to be. A team of Star Wars clones clamber out the bath at one point and surrealistic yards of innards are extracted from the living.

The sadistic punishment of the sister who died, an unwelcome shift in tenor introduces a sad reality that doesn’t quite work. I felt it somehow needed to be either suggested, or if shown, taken to a more brutal surreal level.

All in all a bloody, fun evening but I am so pleased it wasn’t my job to clean up the stage after the show!