It may be something of a guilty pleasure, but The Sticking Place’s annual horror festival at Southwark’s Union Theatre is fast becoming one of the highlights of my theatrical year.
The quality might vary from one festival to the next and from show to show, but one thing you can be quite sure of is it will be unlike anything else you can see on the London stage.
For this year’s event, the organisers have upped the stakes somewhat with a revival of a ‘lost’ Noel Coward play - the Better Half - and a new Mark Ravenhill piece - The Ripper - forming two fifths of the line-up.
They nicely illustrate the broad definition of horror which the evening encompasses - in Coward’s comedy it is the horror of a loveless marriage, while in Ravenhill’s take on the Ripper story, it is Queen Victoria (played with relish by Bette Bourne) disembowelling prostitutes.
Ravenhill’s play is certainly a highlight, or at least it is for those members of the audience who aren’t covered in the fake blood which sprays across the front row (be warned).
Meanwhile, Guns or Butter by Lucy Kirkwood is an intriguing piece about soldiers being overcome by the horror of war and is a premise which could quite possibly be expanded into something full length. It also boasts a rather wonderful eye-gouging scene.
While this is most definitely not one for the squeamish, for those of us who wonder at why horror seems to have slipped out of the theatrical repertoire, it is a real delight.