As a huge fan of the horror genre, I was extremely excited to be invited to the press night of Jakop Ahlbom’s Horror at Sadlers Wells Peacock Theatre. I had been looking forward to this for weeks as I had never seen anything like this before. I have enjoyed horror in film, literature, music and even art but never on stage, so my imagination was running wild!
I am very pleased to report I thoroughly enjoyed the show. My feelings ran through; humour, intrigue, shock, disgust, pleasure and anticipation, but was I at any point scared? Unfortunately not. There was always the element of surprise and I jumped out of my seat more than once, but at no point did I feel the need to cover my eyes through fear. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and may well be that fans of the genre are more used to seeing the kind of things that are on stage here.
The story isn’t the productions greatest asset, and beyond a young women arriving at a haunted mansion and facing all manner of spectres and ghouls (both physical and psychological) there isn’t much more to it. But I don’t believe the story tries to be the centre of the stage. That is not the point of the show. What this is, is a beautifully crafted homage to the horror genre by someone who is obviously a loving fan. We can see here great care to meticulously, and in some cases shockingly, recreate scenes and effects that one would only reasonable expect to see on the big screen.
The effects are absolutely mesmerising. It is simply like watching a horror film. There are many effects that you witness that you know how they are done, but you will still marvel at how quickly and seamlessly they have been achieved. But for however many tricks you think you know the secret to, there will be many more than you will struggle to figure out. Several days later and I am still trying to work out how a levitation effect was achieved.
The choreography is seamless. They have worked incredibly hard to make this a believable production, creating a whole ‘film’ in one small set. Of particular note, Gwen Langenbergs twisting and contortions of her body will leave you wondering if this is trickery or her own skill, and of course it is all her own work. The set itself is ingenious in its design, giving us around 6 different locations without ever moving the scenery. The music and sound effects are stunning, and in many ways is what gives Horror its fear factor.
If you are a fan of horror films, you will relish the chance to name as many horror films as you can being played out before you, and squeal every time you witness a lesser known reference. I managed to spot Evil Dead 2, The Ring, The Grudge, The Exorcist, Halloween, The Amityville Horror, to name but a few as well as some very clever references to the ‘found footage’ sub genre. If you are not the genre’s biggest fan then you will still be in awe at the magnificence of production and the incredible effects on display, though I would question why you are watching!
Ultimately Horror is a master class in stage effects, soundscapes, choreography, and set design and sets the bar high for future productions no matter what the genre. Beyond the technical, although it is a somewhat confused story, it is a terrific tribute from an expert devotee of horror that other fans will love. An extremely enjoyable production for the horror aficionado or casual fan alike. Catch Horror while you can!
All photos are credited to Sanne Peper or Anna Karczmarz used here with the permission of Sadlers Wells.
Jakop Ahlbom Company
Tuesday 23 May – Saturday 10 June
Performances Tue – Sat at 7.30pm, Sat mat 2.30pm, Sunday 1pm & 6pm
Tickets: £15 – £32 Ticket Office: 020 7863 8222 or www.peacocktheatre.com
Jakop Ahlbom’s Horror, an imaginative, terrifying and playful homage to the horror movie genre, returns to The Peacock from 23 May – 10 June 2017. Ingenuously gruesome, genuinely scary and very funny, Horror references famous spine-chillers including The Shining, The Ring, Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist. A deserted mansion. A young woman returns to the place of her bleak childhood. No longer able to suppress memories of her cruel parents and strange sister, she is forced to confront the past and some terrible truths.
Swedish-born theatre maker Jakop Ahlbom’s shows garner rave reviews and play to sell-out houses all over the world. In Horror he uses special effects to surprise and terrify: blood spurts up to the ceiling, a dismembered hand crawls, wailing as it goes, across the floor.
This immersive stage spectacular continues Ahlbom’s legacy of highly visual stage works. Over the last decade Ahlbom has developed a trademark theatrical form that unites theatre, mime, dance, music and the world of illusion.
Jakop Ahlbom says: “In my youth, I devoured every film in the genre I could find. I enjoyed the absurd fantasies and special effects, the extreme events, the sense of a dark unknown, and the rush of adrenaline they all triggered. I was also intrigued by the dark humour of the films; the combination of the slapstick and the surreal made them captivating and terrifying.”
Horror was previously at The Peacock in January 2016 when it received critical acclaim as part of the London International Mime Festival.