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Terror 2012: All in the Mind

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
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Theatre arguably has all the potential of film to be frightening; see The Woman In Black or perhaps a walk through a live action horror maze filled with actors dressed as zombies and other ghouls. So this quartet of short plays that promises to "bring your fears to life" in a "psychological and raw evening of horror" certainly raises expectations a bar or two. There's even a disclaimer - "WARNING: Terror includes scenes of a shocking and disturbing nature that people may find distressing. Strictly ages 18+."

So what does the 2012 installment of this annual horror fest bring to the tabled setting of Soho's atmospheric downstairs space? Unfortunately, not what it says on the tin.

Two smug 'cabaret' performers - Desmond O'Connor and Sarah-Louise Young - totally dominate the evening and vastly overshadow the four, admittedly weak, plays with patronising antics including tricks involving things that are only really scary to young children (i.e. spiders and the dark).

At one point they even resort to singing a Sesame Street-style alphabet song about a Ouija board. Elsewhere there's some unconvincing spider puppetry courtesy of Flabbergast to the tune of Aphex Twin's much over-played "Come To Daddy".

The plays themselves come across like rejects from Roald Dahl's Tales Of The Unexpected. There's Robert Farquhar's No Place Like that sees real life husband and wife Kay and Nigel Carrington's marriage jeopardised by the increasingly strange behaviour of the latter. Representation by Mike McShane is a tokenistic ode to vampirism and The Experiment takes traditional ghost story telling a tad too literally by reading straight from a script.

As if our overconfident cabaret duo hadn't had enough airtime already they even take part as the protagonists in the final play, Alex Jones' Fifty Shades Of Black, a crude and slightly jarring piss take of the popular novel.

A little more modesty in selling Terror 2012 would at least give audiences a better idea of what they're paying for; it will certainly make you laugh before it makes you scream.

- Will Stone


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