Compere: Lucy Muck
Reviewer: Edie Ranvier
How long does it take for a tradition to become an institution? The London Horror Festival is haunting the Camden scene for its fifth year – and to judge from the enthusiasm that greets its opening night, it doesn’t look likely to be exorcised anytime soon.
A cheerfully morbid black-clad crowd packs out the small Etcetera Theatre to welcome Halloween in early with the Horror Cabaret. It’s a ghoulish selection box of the good, the bad and the creepy, compered by comedian Lucy Muck, who’s herself becoming a bit of a tradition-within-a-tradition after two years at the helm of the horrors.
The evening kicks off with some tender tentacle-waving from HP Lovebox, mindflayer and crooner. His adapted lyrics may not be of the most memorable, but he’s guaranteed a good scream when he pops open his crotch at the, er, climactic moment to unleash a burst of mini-tentacles.
Next up is performance poetry with Mary Beth Morrosa, including a creepy little number about a puppet girl who cuts out the heart of her puppeteer in a bid to become human (keep your eyes peeled next time Pinocchio tells you he’s a “real boy”…)
She’s accompanied, mystifyingly but sweetly, by C3PO lookalike Abnormalik. He doesn’t say much, just gazes round the audience with mournful, lightbulb-ringed eyes. You’ll feel an urge to take him home and feed him a biscuit (coated in “3 in One”, presumably)
Then there’s Venus Raven, a willowy femme damnée who bills herself as a specialist in deviant art, performing Eros Autopsy with her “corpse-bride” flatmate Lyndsey Lupe. You can only make out the odd line of the Swinburne she’s muttering, but you’ll definitely notice the scalpel and the blood: a treat for anyone who’s ever felt that they don’t have enough lesbian necrophilia in their lives.
After the interval, the performances start to feel a bit more polished. Ivy and Maurice The Twins Macabre, of Radio 4 Sketchorama fame, reminisce on how they polished off their parents and spooked their social worker. They’re a good Borgia-esque double-act, and there’s some bouncy “psychic” audience participation.
The final performer is Peta Lily, who swoons over Freud, “agony uncle to the underbelly”, and muses on blasphemy and death.
Hostess Lucy Muck is on freaky form throughout, taking an axe to a piñata, waggling a creepy “gigglesound” to ward off awkward silences, and ending up perched atop a ladder, dressed only in her undies, crossly dropping crazy string on the heads of the departing audience (she’s re-enacting the ascension of Jesus Christ – that’s right, don’t ask).
It does have that school talent contest feel – and the bumpy curve of quality that goes with it – but the amateur vibe is the suppurating heart of Horror Cabaret’s freshness. So if there are moments when you wonder why you’re wasting your time here, do a Halloween Taylor Swift and shriek it off, ’cos you’d better get used to it: it may be five years old, but the London Horror Festival looks to have plenty of bite in it yet.
Reviewed on 11 October,The London Horror Festival runs until 31 October 2015