He Had Hairy Hands

Kill the Beast

Pleasance Courtyard

From 03 August 2016 to 29 August 2016

Rating: ***

Review by David Chadderton

Up-and-coming theatre company Kill the Beast clearly has a knowledge of the various genres it is spoofing in this show, and perhaps an influence from The League of Gentlemen for its comedy horror.

The story begins in London in 1950 but could just as easily be Victorian London. A back-street abortionist, literally in a back street, has a client who gives birth to something clearly not human, which is disposed of in a dustbin, with the help of an actor who happens to be passing.

Some years later, in Hemlock-under-Lyne, someone or something is carrying out some murders, and there is a suspicion that a werewolf is on the loose. The plot involves the arrogant Mayor, a local young bobby who fancies the forensic scientist, a legendary police officer brought out of retirement and a teacher who used to be an actor.

There are some very clever and imaginative elements to this production. Everything is performed on a very shallow stage backed by a projection screen, with some lovely use of projected scenery, all subtly animated. There is good use of songs and music, some clever use of extending dog leads and a great werewolf transformation scene at the end.

The plot, however, makes very little sense and is padded out with lots of comic business. It falls between a show that uses a vague plot to link comic sketches and a plot-driven show, which may work if it was shorter but an hour and ten minutes is a long time to keep your audience adrift.

There is no subtlety to the performances, by design, but lots of frantic face-pulling and lines that are always shouted at the audience also gets a little wearing after a while.

The commitment of the performers can't be faulted and the other elements of the production are impressive, but with four "writer/performers" in the company, perhaps the "writer/director" needs to also be a more ruthless editor.