The Horror! The Horror! - The Final Curtain

Theatre of the Damned

Bedlam Theatre

From 04 August 2014 to 24 August 2014

Rating: ****

Review by Graeme Strachan

In an old and struggling music hall, Alfred Brownlow's musical variety act is playing to an evening crowd, but there is something not quite right about things onstage. Something sinister and a little bit strange.

Regular Fringe goers will know that Theatre of the Damned has the chops and the mustache to carry off a good performance and a good atmosphere. This year's play is ostensibly a follow-up to its 2012 play, The Horror! The Horror! This time it's a slightly more macabre turn but offset with comedy, dance, song and silliness.

There's all the fun you'd expect from an old-fashioned music hall show: corny jokes, dance, a puppet act, a psychic and a whole lot of singing. In that regard, the performance is wonderful, and the onstage malarkey would be a credit to any real life music hall of the period.

In addition, there's a strange, building sense of something not being quite right with what's appearing onstage: small nods to strange things happening, and inexplicable, odd, out-of-character turns from some of the performers. 

Unfortunately, this is where the play doesn't quite come together. The sense of dread and unsettling occurrances is a little too subtle and underplayed, until an overlong scene with a psychic, which starts out funny and silly, but then takes a turn into the surreal and strange and doesn't quite add up, feeling like a little island unto itself in the performance.

The result is that, while the horror of the final revelations and plot turns aren't entirely from left-field, they are still a surprise and one that is slightly at odds with the way the show has been leading.

Still, the variety performances are wholly entertaining, the jokes bring laughs and groans at all the right moments and the supernatural bent of the show, while misjudged, does give the whole escapade a cohesive pinning it might otherwise lack.