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Camp Horror (Hornchurch)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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“When all the world’s a stage, where does the audience sit?” That throwaway line in the Heather Brothers' new musical Camp Horror is a neat summing-up of this musical spoof of all those “eliminate by numbers” chillers you’ve ever seen. Especially the teen-flick variety.

Mark Walters has provided a wondrous warp-around set fit for any Hammer horror movie. There are balconies on both sides of the proscenium, complete with windows lit by itinerant flashes of lightning and an assemblage of darkly mouldering drapes. It’s not just the singalong (complete with stabbing gestures) finale which draws the actual audience into the action: Bob Carlton’s direction ensures that characters arrive (and attempt to exit – big mistake!) besides us and disappear into a furbished orchestra pit at strategic moments.

The plot? You can work that out for yourselves from the title. Our daft young heroine, arriving on an island whose surrounding waters include at least one alligator, is Chrissie (Francesca Loren) and she’s complete with a state-of-the-art mobile phone and a rough-next boyfriend (Matthew Quinn as PJ). Her school-friends from Woolsboro High are a mixed-up bunch to match as they rehearse their end-of-term show with drama head Mr Reynolds (Julian Litman) giving an over-the-top performance which adds a new dimension to camp).

If Mel (Kate-Robson-Stuart) and Jasmine (Sarah Scowen) are a pair of flighty blondes, Pam Jolley as Leanne is rather more three-dimensional in or out of her wheel-chair. The lads are an equally mixed bunch – including the ones who are only doing the show for the chance to snuggle up to the girls, the class swot and a reluctant technician. Elliot Harper, Alex Marshall, Oliver Seymour-Marsh and Joe West give them their individual personalities in between singing, dancing and playing instruments ranging from guitars through brass to drums.

The dialogue is witty with sly references to both British and American popular culture. The rock'n'roll influenced score fits the theme and also drops in its own references – just a hint of Camelot at one point stood out for me. As well as all the special effects – both macabre and tongue-in-cheek, such as the shower-scene – there is appropriate choreography by Emily Parker. All the cast have strong voices, able to cope with a couple of a cappella numbers and there’s one good ballad (“I die a little”) for Chrissie in the second act.


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