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Jakop Ahlbom: The Lifeblood of Horror

By Leah Maclean











Jakop Ahlbom portrait by Arjan Benning, "Horror" by Paulina Matusiak & Eddy Wenting

Jakop Ahlbom plays homage to the stuff of nightmares in his latest work Horror. An aptly named piece by all means, Ahlbom draws from the Hollywood classics that kept you up all night in order to create a theatre show bound to scare you out of your skin.

Programmed in the Auckland Arts Festival, from March 21 Auckland’s Civic Theatre will be the platform for the spine-tingling, blood-spurting spectacular. Having consumed as much of the horror genre as possible in early life, Ahlbom has a long-time affinity for the gruesome, the absurd and the psychological. For Ahlbom Horror is a labour of love, attributing his influences to the likes of Peter Jackson (Braindead, Meet the Feebles), Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead) and Stanley Kubrick (The Shining).

It is the tale of a woman who returns to her parental home and quickly discovers that the house is haunted. Haunted by a hidden a past, by a tragic family event; haunted by the vengeful spirit of her older sister. Speaking from the Netherlands Swedish born Ahlbom describes his work as “physical visual theatre.” The surreal world of cinematic horror is translated onto the stage through special effects, masterful choreography, black humour, slapstick comedy, magic and chilling imagery. A viewing of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining or the 1973 The Exorcist may give you some indication of what to expect from Ahlbom’s unique creation.  

“Is it possible to bring horror to the stage?” Ahlbom asked himself when brewing the idea. The challenge of bringing the genre from the cinema to the theatre was an exhilarating dream for the director – a dream which has been met with rave reviews since its premiere in 2014. In 2015 the performance was nominated for various theatre awards (VSCD Mime Award nomination, Dutch Theatre Festival Wijk Jury Award winner) and in 2016 The Guardian praised the homage as “a razor sharp delight.” When asked about why the show has been so well received, Ahlbom is modest and a somewhat bashful. “It’s always hard… I don’t want to boast about my own work,” he laughs.

The notion that horror is not heavily depicted on stage is an exciting thing for audiences to experience, especially in recent years where the genre has made a comeback with things like The Walking Dead, The Conjuring and numerous revamps to the classics. Plus there is the magic, something that Ahlbom has an almost childlike devotion for. He cites the illusionism in his work as one of the key elements that keeps an audience hooked and hearts racing. A self-confessed amateur, Ahlbom started to learn magic years ago and found it to be an effective and unique tool in the theatre setting. “I find I have the best misdirection when telling a story,” he explains mysteriously. In other words, nothing is as it appears in the world of Horror.  The work engages an almost absurd amount of practices; mime, music, movement, humour, special effects, illusions and a multitude of subsets.  “From an artistic point of view and even a commercial point of view, it has such a broad range. Even people who hate horror enjoy the show,” Ahlbom says proudly.

This will be the first time Ahlbom has travelled to New Zealand and he can barely contain his excitement as it has been a dream of his for over 30 years. While staying in New Zealand, Ahlbom will teach a masterclass (March 25) on his physical way of working for a group of 20 artists with experience in dance, theatre and/or circus. He admits he doesn’t have method for teaching so, much like Horror, workshop participants should expect the unexpected.

On his return to the Netherlands Ahlbom plans to revisit and develop some of his old works, “I never give up!” he declares. Plus he will be launching into film itself, the very thing that inspired him to do what he does. But he says theatre will always remain close to him, he describes it as a one shot type thing; there are no cuts and no retakes. “Theatre is the only place you can experience something pure.”  

21-26 March, Auckland Civic Theatre
Visit for information and ticketing

Jakop Ahlbom's masterclass is limited to 20 physically trained artists from artists from dance, theatre and circus.
25 March, 3-5pm @ Kenneth Myers Centre
Email expressing your interest and your dance experience.

The Lifeblood of Horror

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