Horror - Jakop Ahlbom
21 March 2017, The Civic, Auckland
Auckland Arts Festival
Reviewed by Leah Maclean
Jakop Ahlbom and his cast of talented performers travelled all the way from The Netherlands to bring Auckland Arts Festival audiences Horror, a blood spurting, ear splitting and spooky good time. Horror is the ‘kids in a candy store’ equivalent for horror buffs. It plays homage to some of the most iconic horror films of this modern age – The Ring, The Shining, Evil Dead and The Exorcist. There’s plenty of blood, jump scares, humour and magic.
Horror is the tale of a young woman who returns to her childhood home with two friends, but the home is haunted by a hidden past, a dark tragedy; the vengeful spirit of her sister. The minute the trio walk through the door of the old, abandoned home, dressed in their blood red raincoats, it is clear that things are amiss. The white spectre disappearing as quick as she appears, clocks and frames climbing a wall, television sets turning on unprovoked and the cries of children emerging from a rickety closet. If there is anything you should know about horror it is: don’t break into abandoned houses and DO NOT open that door.
Horror’s set is an excellent reflection of the genre, with grim colours, garish furniture and almost grimy sheen, not to mention the various nooks and crannies Horror’s ghouls emerge from. Your eyes are constantly wandering – can you catch a glimpse of a terrifying spectre levitating from the closet, did you see that white face peer through the trees in the forest? Ahlbom forces you to be wary of what is in the corner of your eye. Horror’s talented cast of Judith Hazeleger, Gwen Langenberg, Maurits Van Den Berg, Reinier Schimmel, Luc Van Esch, Yannick Greweldinger, Silke Hundertmark and Sofieke De Kater manage to convey a story of cruelty, innocence lost and confrontation sublimely – with not a single word spoken. Costume, musical cues, slick lighting changes and moments of thrilling physical theatre are partnered and interchanged effectively. From the creepy sister spider walking down the stairs accompanied by a soundtrack of creaking bones, to the stiff costumes of the brutal parents and the matching dresses of the sisters, to the unsettling synchronised movements of the spectres, it all adds to the overall eerieness of the show. When you watch Horror you know that everything in front of you has a purpose.
Ahlbom has brought the horror genre to the stage - something that isn’t often done in theatre, and this showing of Horror highlights the need for more. The audience experience is like nothing I have experienced before. There’s plenty of laughter, screams and running remarks – God, there she is. Do you see her? How is she doing that!? At the end there is a feeling of comradery amongst members of the audience. Horror is a brilliant commentary on all the classic scary movie tropes – ankle drags, bathtub scenes, creepy twins, power outages, levitation and head spins – and the performers give it their all on the stage. They throw themselves at each other and battle with furniture and other various props; they launch across tables and emerge through small gaps – it’s clear that they’re having a grand time and their physical control cannot be faulted.
Ahlbom and his company should be commended on this incredibly clever production and one hopes they plan on returning to our shores. The Auckland Arts Festival deserves great kudos for the inclusion of such a unique and magical theatre experience in the Festival programme.