As the days grow darker and nights become colder, various ghoulish theatre shows set up across London. Tucked inside the arches, a stone’s throw from Embankment station, Charing Cross Theatre takes the reigns with the first “spine-tingling horror” show this autumn. While Afraid of the Dark’s marketing may be slightly over-egged, it is nonetheless an entertaining 90 minutes that delivers on illusions, plot twists and jumps.
Cutting between a magician’s vaudeville show and a 1950s film studio, the audience learns about the history of magic (who knew illusions have been around since before the birth of Christ?) and the so-called Golden Age of film that was, in actuality by the 50s, riddled by the emergence of television and the anti-communist movement The Red Scare. So when schlock-horror experts Excelsior Films are given 24 hours to come up with two new scripts otherwise jobs will be axed, tension levels naturally escalate. As timing just so has it, creepy magician Charlier (played by Julian Forsyth who Woman in Black fans will recognise as Arthur Kipps) walks into their office enshrined in a cloud of smoke, insisting he can help.
Individual sealed envelopes are then given first to the writer, and eventually to the remaining production members. As each letter is opened, secrets are revealed leading to eerie plot turns and jolting screeches.
Afraid of the Dark is shamefully puerile in parts and some of the acting is overly dramatic. But this show centres around vaudeville’s over-the-top staging and an era when B-movies thrived – it’s meant to be a tad harebrained. In fact, it's what makes it fun. Hats off to the illusion, sound design and music team – the culmination of effects results in yelps en-masse (yes, even the men chimed in).
Bottom line – don’t expect smart theatre, but do be ready to giggle and share a few bum-lifting-out-of-the-seat moments with your neighbour. And if there's one tip, watch out for flying objects – you never know what might be lingering…
Afraid of the Dark is on Mondays to Thursdays at 8pm, Fridays at 6.30 and 9pm and Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm until 26 October. Tickets are £12.50 - £37.50. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary review ticket.