Whether or not it’s a trick of the air-con or simply a fluke, there’s a definite chill in the tiny theatre housed above the Old Red Lion pub in Islington. Blood red writing is scrawled across the black walls and the old pub signage appears to float above the stage in the haze.
The Knock Knock Club’s new show is part of the London Horror Festival and the building and its history takes centre stage in an investigation of paranormal activity in the cellar, the snug and of course the theatre itself.
Visitors to the Old Red, which dates back to the 15th century, include William Hogarth and Karl Marx. The team exploit this to lend weight to their story. It’s not the famous names that are the main attraction though, but the shadier characters, especially those who may have met their end there in dubious circumstances.
Between them, the three performers weave together a colourful piece of documentary theatre involving psychics, Ouija boards and interviews with previous artistic directors and habitués of the friendly local. Reece Connolly plays the believer, Caroline Buckley the agnostic and Christopher Keegan the cynic.
The show gets the balance of chills and laughter just right, with a few Poe-like narrative twists thrown in for good measure. Horror is a notoriously difficult genre to get right in a live show but the tone of Last Orders ensures the audience is frightened very much on its own terms.