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Birdwatching

by on 23 October 2021

Dogged Horror

Birdwatching

by Miranda Barrett

Anarchy Division at The Space Theatre, Isle of Dogs, London until 24th October

Part of the London Horror Festival

Review by Heather Moulson

Halloween is truly in sight, getting us just in the right mood for the London Horror Festival.

The Space, with its gothic splendour in the heart of Millwall, down on the Isle of Dogs is an ideal setting. Formerly St Paul’s Church, its high ceilings, and grand windows, surrounded by a charming cobbled courtyard is fitting for this unique festival, one that I previously enjoyed in 2019 at the Pleasance Theatre in Islington; another atmospheric and inspiring theatre.  

I wanted to be receptive and supportive, as I think the horror genre is so much more difficult to convey onstage as opposed to film. The tension and build-up is given such limited freedom, which rests heavily on the player’s shoulders.  However, integrity and strong writing make up for this.

Set in the depth of winter and of isolation, three people set out to make a horror film.

The director, Harris, played by Alfie Noble, made a very good and positive entrance, and excelled in his darker moments.  Amy, Karen Barredo, was talented and delivered well, but needed to project more, as it was easy to miss vital points of the story.  However, Arno van Zelst as Pete, stood out and remained strong and consistent.

Events that could be disturbing, such as Harris seeing images in the camera that simply weren’t there, and Amy seeing grim body parts in innocuous items, unravelled at a slower pace than we would have liked.  Pete stayed on more solid ground being obsessed at night with a floundering and basic heater.   Too many scenes of unrolling sleeping bags and muted build-up did not make this play enticing, particularly as it lasted 85 minutes, instead of the advertised 60 minutes.

One of the most disturbing moments was of Amy no longer seeing a camera but a butchered torso. This was effective and a potential for a gear change, but sadly there was no opportunity to fully utilise it. The text being a bit tighter and edited could have made this piece genuinely horrific, and eventually lead to a worthy climax.

Being her first one act play, writer Miranda Barrett is worth looking out for.  Her writing explores tensions and psychological horrors, making Miranda a definite find. This also applies to the director Lydia Harper who has an impressive CV, along with Anarchy Division, an arts production company headed by producer-editor-writer Justin Treadwell.  I will happily watch out for these three in future. 

The London Horror Festival truly worth its salt, and I recommend going to these ingenious and colourful productions. 

Heather Moulson, October 2021

Photography by Lidia Crisafulli

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