Last year’s “Terror” season at Southwark Playhouse began with a punter (or a plant) being forcefully ejected; this year, the corpse on the trolley during Sarah-Louise Young’s opening song is that of another schmuck whose mobile phone went off.
There are some reasonably shiver-inducing ghoulish touches, but the programme’s not as good as last year’s, despite contributions from Mark Ravenhill, April De Angelis and Neil LaBute, and an ambitious but finally incomprehensible adaptation of some macabre resuscitation stories by American sci-fi writer H P Lovecraft.
There’s a pleasant degree of tastelessness overall, and a lovely spurt of blood when a dead rabbit, twitching back to life, is hammered on the slab. A mystery groper grabbed my leg beneath the scaffolded seating, and one or two customers are accosted in a mild manner; but it all seems a bit tame.
Ravenhill’s The Exclusion Zone has two horny gay men surrounded by mutants with plastic bags on their heads, refugees from Chernobyl, which seems sicker than called for, like watching Deathtrap invaded by an am-dram version of the Marat/Sade.
Trudi Jackson and Caroline Langrishe up the acting stakes in De Angelis’ Country, but a “welcome to my world” pay-off, with a wielded axe and vampiric scramble evades the usually sure touch of director Hannah Eidinow. The best writing is LaBute’s for a shadowy all-purpose paedophile blaming unwatchful parents for his misdemeanours.
Ravenhill directs his own piece limply. Adam Meggido directs the Lovecraft noisily, with much relishing of serum injections, body-snatching and wacky scientific experimentation on a college campus. But, theatrically, most of this is just plain silly, and not nearly as frightening as a buxom belly dancer who suddenly erupts between scenes for no reason whatsoever.