Wednesday, September 12, 2018


Directed by Jakop Ahlbom
Presented by Canberra Theatre Centre and Stichting Pels
Canberra Theatre to 15 September

Reviewed by Len Power 11 September 2018

The director of ‘Horror’, Jakop Ahlbom, was born in Sweden in 1971 and found horror films to be an escape from his difficult childhood environment.  Now working as an actor, choreographer and director in the Netherlands, this stage production is an homage to the horror movie genre he loves so much.

It’s an impressive production that uses stage and magic techniques to create horror movie set-pieces that would normally be achieved on film using special effects.  The multi-level set of an old haunted house in which horrid things happened and continue to happen is cleverly designed and suitably atmospheric.  The complex lighting design by Yuri Schreuders is masterful and the music by Wim Conradi with Bauke Moerman shows a strong knowledge of classic horror film music.  It’s very loud and some of the best scare moments are created by sudden music cues, as in all good horror movies.

The ensemble cast of eight perform this extremely physical work with bold character statements, athleticism and split-second timing.  There are highly choreographed moments that show their mastery of movement and mime.  There is no dialogue in the show which gives it a nightmarish quality.  It’s played without an interval so there is no escape from this horrific dream experience.

For horror movie fans there is the added fun of recognizing the movie references.  There’s everything here from ‘The Old Dark House’ to ‘The Blair Witch Project’ to ‘Halloween’ and ‘The Shining’.  A repeat viewing would probably turn up many more references missed the first time.

At the opening night of ‘Horror’ at the Canberra Theatre, it was interesting to note that the audience was generally younger than you normally see for a play at the theatre these days.  This was no surprise as horror films appeal to younger audiences and they continue to be big business in the cinema.

Was ‘Horror’ scary?  The young woman sitting next to me watched the entire show with her hands over her face and peeping out between her fingers.  She visibly jumped at every shock moment.  I flinched once at an unexpectedly loud music cue but otherwise wasn’t affected by it.  I think it’s an age thing – I don’t go to new horror movies anymore either.  However, I enjoyed the clever theatricality of this stage production.  It really is extremely well done.

Photos by Sanne Peper
Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast in his ‘On Stage’ performing arts radio program on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3.30pm on Artsound FM 92.7.