Writer / Director: The Company
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott
With only a week to Halloween, the London Horror Festival is in full swing, taking over The Old Red Lion theatre pub in Angel to showcase over 25 original creepy shorts in four weeks. Plenty of spine-chilling tales of ghosts and ghouls are being performed but perhaps none as anarchically silly as Red Black Cape’s Hubert is Very Dead, a 60-minute horror-farce that winks at everything from Hammer Horror to Kubrick.
Twin sisters Clarice and Gerty want to tell you the story of their childhood, a family saga of multiple babies, gender divide, inheritance, sibling resentment and the death of their brother Hubert. As the sisters wait for their parents to die in their lonely house on the cliffs, mysterious letters begin to arrive suggesting that Hubert is back and wants revenge on the murderous pair. As their fear intensifies, is Hubert really alive or has he just risen from the grave to torment them one last time?
Red Cape Black Cape theatre company have created a very silly comedy horror that plays with many of the conventions of the genre. Although Clarice, Gerty and Hubert are actually triplets, the show toys with the idea of sinister female twins perpetuated by The Shining, and there is something grotesque about these cartoon-like characters, their identical outfits, silver-blonde wigs and frequent tendency to speak in unison that also situates them somewhere between the League of Gentleman and Roald Dahl.
The joke of course is that the twins – repeatedly referenced as identical – are played by actors who look completely different from one another, which you soon buy into. There is a good sense of the missing Hubert, his physical characteristics and personality which seem equally as weird as his sisters, and there’s something of The Addams Family in the way they describe their lives, along with the humorous hand-drawn gallery of family portraits adorning the back wall.
The mystery of Hubert sustains the show for much of the time, although a lagging middle section veers off into nightmares about Noel Edmonds and a comedy dance in the woods when Gerty meets a stranger. These lack the dark atmosphere of the early scenes so your attention wanders – it is a section they could reconfigure or cut entirely to make the bubbling tension more consistent. Occasionally too the characters become overly hysterical and shrill, which isn’t in line with the eerie calm and slow, refined manner of the twins that is most effectively creepy in the early scenes.
The humour is quite madcap and doesn’t always land, but there is a broad enough variety of jokes and references to keep the audience pretty well entertained throughout. The dream sequences have a good amount of lurking evil that are fun to watch and there is something extremely likeable about the performers enthusiasm for the characters and the strange little world they create.
Red Cape Black Cape are apparently as mysterious as their show and no cast or creative credits are to be found on their website or posters, so whether Hubert is Very Dead was written by the cast, by another writer or even an unseen devilish hand is left to our own devious imaginations. A bit of internet digging suggest that Gerty is played by Meg Hodgson, various male characters by Jack Ridley and Clarice by someone tagged only as Vi. Perhaps the whole thing was a ghostly apparition, ‘tis the season after all!
Reviewed on 23 October 2018 | Image: Contributed