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Father of Lies review at Vaults, London – ‘compulsively gripping’

Tom Worsley in Father of Lies at Vault Festival, London Tom Worsley and Sasha Roberts in Father of Lies at Vault Festival, London

In 1973, in the West Germany town of Würzburg, there was a murder. Or so Bête Noire Productions’ painstakingly put-together docudrama Father of Lies would have you believe. It’s difficult to know what to think after this heady, horrifying show.

Arriving at the Vault Festival after runs on Edinburgh’s Free Fringe and at the London Horror Festival last year, Sasha Roberts and Tom Worsley’s two-hander uses direct address, dramatised scenes, and a slideshow of photographs and police reports to tell the grisly “true” story of Anselm Neumann, a widowed priest haunted by supernatural visions.

To reveal more of the story would be to spoil it, but suffice to say it’s a real page-turner, combining the occult inflections of True Detective (the good first season) with the spine-chilling specificity of Making A Murderer or Serial (again, the good first season). A compulsively gripping tale of devil-worship and death.

Roberts and Worsley have created a superbly stylish structure through which to tell it. Slipping seamlessly between re-enacted scenes and explication, between their characters and themselves, they have crafted a genuinely unique piece of theatre. Half lecture, half horror story. All killer, no filler (quite literally).

Where Father of Lies comes slightly unstuck, though, is in director Stephen Sobal’s production, which doesn’t adapt well to this space at all. The Vaults are always a challenging venue, but Sobal exacerbates things by positioning the display awkwardly and filling the room with a dense, impenetrable smog. Clumsy decisions in an otherwise meticulous show.

Bismillah! An Isis Tragicomedy review at Vaults, London – ‘humorous and humane’

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A darkly thrilling docudrama investigating a grisly, ghoulish murder from 1973