- The Stage - https://www.thestage.co.uk -

Horror Souk

After five years of creating pop-up theatre experiences in disused buildings in London, Theatre Delicatessen has popped up north for the first time to transform the shell of a former Sheffield city centre Woolworths store into a big shop of horrors.

In keeping with the now familiar conventions of immersive theatre, spectators are invited to pick’n’mix from a choice of eight mini performances developed by emerging artists from across the region, each group using a vacant space to explore an aspect of horror.

With miles of low-vis corridors and dusty nooks and crannies to negotiate, the interactive concept is genuinely unsettling and tension-making, but loose enough to let audiences draw their own conclusions about what’s scary or just plain silly.

The Punkture troupe, for instance, lark around using freaky circus imagery to explore the weirder side of medical cure-alls, while puppet-oriented company Frolicked turn a murder mystery team game into a spooky version of Cluedo involving dead rats trapped in old staff toilets.

Inevitably, the overall feel is of experimental work in progress, with conceptual, technical and logistical issues yet to be resolved. But some purveyors of horror do break spine-bristling new ground. Hip hop group Rationale brings genuine Grand Guignol goriness to its tour of a crypt-like basement. Hidden Track’s one-to-one experience in total darkness explores disturbing feelings of claustrophobia as much as notions of storytelling, while Sheffield-based Forest Sounds makes imaginative use of lighting, sound and text to shred the murky politics of the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal, demonstrating that immersive theatre still retains the power to shock your socks off.