Writer/Director: David Isaac &Peter Slater
Reviewer: Jo Beggs
We’re welcomed to the show by Randolph Tempest, just one of the characters that local actor and comedian Peter Slater slips into tonight. Like a low-rent Alfred Hitchcock he ‘presents’ an evening of spooky tales, delivered by the ‘remaining four members of the cast, the rest of whom mysteriously disappeared’ – cue a joke about actors not getting paid.
Slater’s character comedy is generally a lot of fun. But it’s usually delivered in bite-sized sketches, slotted into comedy nights and showcases. He’s been a stalwart of the local comedy scene for years and he’s delivered plenty of laughs, but turning this into a ninety minute sketch show (plus a pointless twenty minute interval) just kills it dead.
Horror themed – and almost hitting Halloween – The House That Stank Of Death is a series of sketches and short films, all with a Tales Of The Unexpected-like twist. From a young couple meeting a monster in the woods to a night security guard in an art gallery imagining the paintings come alive – classic spooky stories get re-made with a touch of bizarre comedy. Perhaps too derivative of The League of Gentlemen, a grotesque shop-keeper with a disturbing secret lures a young woman into his shop. There’s a haunted asylum where a detective and a psychiatrist try to communicate with a crazed, silent girl. In probably the most successful sketch, at least until its predictable pay-off, a BBC copyright inspector checks into a Fawlty Towers/Horror themed hotel.
There are some nice performances. Rosina Carbone has an affable comic style and there are certainly moments when Slater delivers his usual high quality clowning. Stephen Cain and Lee Fenwick don’t have a huge amount to work with in most of the sketches (although Cain wears a bad wig and a monster suit with some style) but as an ensemble they work reasonably well. Some of the most successful moments are throw-away one-liners typical of Slater’s absurd and original turn of phrase.
Poor direction means that the sketches are nowhere near pacey enough, and more technical rehearsal might have made the whole thing look a bit slicker. There’s long, clumsy blackouts between scenes within sketches making it difficult to judge when they end. A lack of good punch-lines when they do doesn’t help.
The films too need tighter production. Parodies of movie trailers show some promise in their content but are ineptly executed. The most successful is a short spoof documentary on a mythical pyramid beneath the Shard, in which a straight-faced investigator puts the wind up the security and hotel staff, asking absurd questions with delightful fake sincerity.
The House That Stank Of Death feels like a work in progress, not nearly audience-ready enough. It seriously – and disappointingly given its pedigree – fails to hit the mark all round.
Reviewed on 30 October 2014