THEATRE MACABRE-The Somnambulist/Meat

Faith Ashleigh Wong • Keeping Up with NZ

If you have outgrown trick-or-treat but still want to do something a little fun and spooky for the occasion, skip the candy and costumes and make a fright night of it at Q. Theatre of Love and Rebels & Robots have come together this Halloween to present Theatre Macabre, a grim and sinister double bill for the horror enthusiast.

The evening kicks off with The Somnambulist an unnerving piece written and directed by Thomas Sainsbury. It draws inspiration from the likes of Paranormal Activity and The Ring – it has that same creepy and ominous feel about it.

Hugo and Jordana are a young “Hispanish” couple who have recently immigrated to New Zealand. They are struggling to find a job and to make ends meet but soon this becomes the least of their worries when Jordana starts sleepwalking and waking up with blood on her hands.

For me, this play triumphed in its ability to create nervous tension through clever timing and use of lights and sound. The intuitive use of both silence and an eerie hum that appears in waves was used effectively to build a sense of foreboding as the story progressed; it very much became the “pulse” of the story.

The story is well thought out and well paced with great performances from the cast. I thought Liesha Ward Knox’s convincing portrayal of Jordana was suitably chilling and I enjoyed the comedy that Lee Smith-Gibbons brought to Aria, the nosy and socially inept landlord.

Meat is the second play in this Halloween double feature and takes us from suburban apartment living to a decrepit lodge in the middle of nowhere with shifty residents who are clearly hiding something. Harrison, the newest lodger, is a self-proclaimed detective and wannabe journalist who has made it his mission to unearth these secrets.

While I appreciated Benjamin Teh’s tackling of a taboo subject, I felt it fell flat in the execution. The most significant flaw was there were far too many scene changes; the constant fading in and out and noisy movements on the stage was really distracting.

I also felt it was a bit confused in what kind of story it was trying to be. Harrison, in particular, had great comical character moments but sometimes it felt a bit too caricature that I questioned if it is actually meant to be a satire.

There were also pacing issues. It takes a while to build up and there wasn’t that similar sense of foreboding which really is the key to any good horror story. It really is such a shame that this play encountered so many struggles as, that aside, the acting was great and the payoff at the end is actually quite excellent.

Overall I left feeling a bit lukewarm as I had expected to be scared a lot more than I was – this could very well be a matter of opinion, of course! If you fancied doing something a little different than your standard dress up though, I would definitely recommend giving Theatre Macabre a go.

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