Thursday, 6 November 2014

the small hand

i like horror theatre, but mostly i come away wishing it had gone further. i saw ghost stories, which was cool, but i really expected there to be more audience interaction. i went to see a punchdrunk production of faust that was in this spooky archive building and used all these horror tropes, like there was this one moment where one of the characters was killed, and i stuck around to watch what happened because the performance runs on a loop so i figured the actor isn't just going to lie there for the next hour. and he doesn't, he sat bolt upright just like michael myers from halloween and then the staggered towards me like a zombie and tried to touch my face. that shit was cool! but i needed more of it.

the closest i ever got to really being scared by a show, outside of a horror maze, was the woman in black. i know it's been around forever and it's a movie now so it's old news, but the staging of that play is fucking amazing. it's like watching a live haunting, and it's fucking terrifying! so when i found out that there was a stage adaptation of another susan hill story (susan hill wrote the book what the woman in black was based on) i was really excited.

the small hand is about this art dealer named adam snow who goes to this creepy old house by mistake and is then haunted by the ghost of a 5 year old boy. as the haunting becomes more and more intense he begins to unravel the boy's story and to understand why he is the target.

the play is really fucking intense. andrew lancel's performance as adam snow starts frantic and becomes more crazed with each scene. by the end he's throwing himself on the floor and pulling out his hair with what feels like a genuine display of a man insane. he's sympathetic too, and he needs to be because like the best ghost stories he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. there's an m r james quality to the story; this idea that once the ghost sees you, you're fucked. there's no digging up the bones and giving them a christian burial or some shit, you're just fucked. japanese horror films use this idea as well. here, the sense of impending doom is presented really well from the start.

the supporting cast are great too and the story moves along at a quick pace, using a simple set to great effect with some really seamless scene transitions. the non-linear narrative is a bit confusing at first but makes sense by the end. overall, it was a great story well told.

my only niggle? i wasn't scared. sure, it was creepy and there were some good uses of big bangs and screams. there was one really creepy moment, reminiscent of woman in black, when snow is outside the house and you can see the silhouette of a woman in the shadows behind him. but there is a rule in horror, particularly ghost stories, that you absolutely must follow if you want to scare your audience. don't let them see too much of the monster. woman in black gets this right, jaws gets it right, alien gets it, it's a problem. that ghost kid is fucking everywhere! and yeah, he's a creepy little bastard but he appears so often he just stops being scary. if they had held off having him appear until the final scene of the play i swear i would've lost my shit. if for the whole play you thought it was in snow's head and at the last moment you see what he sees...that would have been amazing. instead, the kid punctuates every scene and it's never truly scary as a result.

that said, the story is cool and there are some great moments. there are a few more performances in brighton and i think there are still tickets so you can still catch it if you have chance. otherwise i think there are still a few stops left on the tour so look out for it.

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