The London Horror Festival is an annual Halloween-season celebration of all things horror-flavoured, with live performances that range from stand-up and storytelling to burlesque and puppetry. It’s the place to be for any horror fan who wants to expand their appreciation of the genre.
This year’s harvest includes the world premiere of a new play by the author of the book that inspired The Wicker Man; an exploration of the origins of gothic horror; and an improvised, Tim Burton-esque, black-comedy musical. There’s also a comic re-working of Dante’s Inferno, with the nine circles of Hell updated and scarily recognisable.
Go To Hell!, written and performed by The Electric Head – comedy duo Alan Ronald and Cy Henty – is a live radio show that pits peace-loving artist Karloff against uptight bureaucrat Scrote, and leads to Karloff navigating his way through hell, guided by William Blake.
The most striking thing about this show is how strong the narrative journey is. It very quickly draws the audience into this ride through the netherworld, sweeping them into the story and making them feel invested in the outcome. It’s easy to feel sympathetic towards Karloff (Alan Ronald), who is endearing in his upbeat innocence, and his puzzlement at the ridiculousness of the world. And yet it’s hard to wholly hate Scrote (Cy Henty); his pointless meanness evokes pity as well as contempt.
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The comedy twists throughout the show, encompassing wordplay, surrealism, and a good dose of mockery for 21st century life, as well as a few rather niche references to art and literature. It’s a sweet kind of humour for the most part, with something of a bitter twist to it, but it also has a scattering of dick jokes and poop gags, just to balance things out. The horror aspect is very much in the telling of the tale: the daily grind can feel like Hell, and sometimes you can be at war with your own life.
As a radio show, it has to leave some of the work to the audience’s imagination, and this is backed up by the addition of an ambitious and ongoing collection of live and pre-recorded sound effects. As a live theatre show it also makes judicious use of lighting effects to enhance to netherworld atmosphere.
Go To Hell! manages to be funny, compelling, and uplifting – which is actually a lot to pack in to an hour of radio comedy. The Electric Head say that they’ll likely be further developing and touring the show; it’s definitely one to keep an eye out for.