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Cigarette Burns Presents The Hallowe'en Sessions!
Manish Agarwal , October 30th, 2012 04:34

Play puts the mental into portmanteau, at Leicester Square Theatre this week

Intended as a homage to the "black-hearted collections of twisted little morality plays" seen in Amicus portmanteau movies, The Hallowe'en Sessions was conceived by producer Josh Saco (of cult film crew Cigarette Burns), director Sean Hogan (whose fine feature The Devil's Business is now available on DVD) and author/critic Kim Newman. The play's six segments were written by the latter pair plus esteemed scribes Stephen Volk, Maura McHugh, Anne Billson and Paul McAuley, who have updated yesteryear's horror fiction anthologies by framing their tales with the creepy modern setting of a secure mental hospital. The Quietus was privileged to attend a preview and can report (without giving too much away) that it's a small-scale triumph of fecund imaginations, in which a peremptory headshrinker asks a dressing gowned quintet of inmates to recall the sorry stories which led them to the institution. Acted out with intensity and humour, these grim vignettes encompass unfathomable loss, a bloody-minded control saga, psychosexual revenge, adultery gone very wrong, and young love tested by a terrifying trip to the in-laws.

Sci-fi great Sarah Douglas (the first two Superman flicks, original V: The Final Battle miniseries) is formidable as Dr Myra Lark, silently abetted by Grace Ker's grinning Nurse Wretched, with her five group therapy patients - not to mention a myriad of flashback roles - embodied with verve and versatility by Billy Clarke, Joshua Mayes-Cooper, Gina Abolins, Daniel Brocklebank and Holly Lucas. The piquant script and performances are further enhanced by the staging, lighting and sound design, which include spooky yet droll tannoy announcements, hands-on violence, genre-iconic props and the odd demonic manifestation. The Hallowe'en Sessions runs each evening up to Saturday November 3 at Leicester Square Theatre (next door to the Prince Charles Cinema), as part of the venue's 13th Hour Horror Festival. Performances start at 8.30pm and the closing night also promises a post-show Q&A with the writers; tickets can be purchased from here.