Whip out your top hat and petticoats for this revival of the Victorian era ghost story – despite the rather Australian heat, you’re still liable to shiver and feel goosebumps, if not jump out of your seat.
As atmospheric as it is tongue-in-cheek, “Light Out Vol. 1” (via Nathan Schulz presents) is more than just a reading of various short horror stories – based on the premise that we’ve entered the eccentric Augustenberg household for a Christmas eve story-telling competition, it doesn’t take long for you to lose yourself in the scene, acclimatising to the growing sense of macabre dread. There’s always a feeling of Christmas cheer, warm and cosy, even as tales become ever more moody and suspenseful; Bram Stoker, Edith Nesbit and A.E.D. Smith all making apearances.
Considering the origins of the script, there’s plenty of creativity at work – a reliance on atmosphere is no weakness when you take into account the location, West End’s Ecclectica Esoteric Books and Oddities. It’s a perfect fit – dripping candle wax, antique radios and photographs – cliché perhaps, but still effective. Dark but for the faint candlelight, the closeness of the venue make each tale inescapable, the occasional use of a sound effect or prop unavoidable, appropriately unsettling – there’s little music used and the silence only amplifies each word, moreso for the scares.
Beyond what is required to set the scene, though, there’s not much in the way of plot. The introduction, various interjections and short bursts of witty banter between the cast hint at a deeper story which remains unexplored – notably, there’s no coda to be found here. Suspension of disbelief is dubious – there are occasional anachronisms in script or delivery, and accents very occasionally slip, breaking the illusion. Luckily the effect is temporary, due to acting and design managing to overrule any minor problems and the work remains engrossing – though the same can’t be said for the racket coming from the the evening latin dance class upstairs; though laughed off by the cast, it remains detrimental.
Well paced, with skillful delivery of each individual tale (finishing with an impressive monologue based on A.E.D. Smith’s “The Coat”), needless to say i’m looking forward to volume two. With the charismatic cast haunting Ecclectica’s aisles prior to the show, you might as well strike up a conversation – these ghosts have plenty of tales to tell.
Reviewed by Jason Lomas
This review is based on the reviewer’s experience of the performance on May 20.