BWW Review: EDRED, THE VAMPYRE, The Old Red Lion Theatre
Rather louche, rather camp, rather seductively becaped, Eldred may be world-weary, but he has quite a night ahead of him in the unlikely surroundings of a darkened provincial church. Two young backpackers have been tracking "The Hertfordshire Vampyre" and have arrived, wet and bedraggled (think of the famous pub scene in An American Werewolf in London) and are soon engaged in conversation by their garrulous host. They know that to stay invites danger, but, as Eldred astutely points out, unlike him who can actually live forever, they merely think that they can.
Horror is amongst the trickiest of genres to present on stage - one reason why we see so little of it - and the tenth London Horror Festival is to be commended for its longstanding commitment to new productions and new writing. Eldred, The Vampyre, written by David Pinner, whose novel inspired the classic film, The Wicker Man, is an excellent addition to its portfolio of chillers.
Much of horror's success depends on catching the right tone - perhaps a more difficult task in a post #MeToo world, but the genre has always had its fair share of scream queens (Ingrid Pitt would be extremely ill cast as a meek victim after all). Director, Anthony Shrubsall, navigates the issues well over a tight 75 minutes show, providing plenty of laughs without ever losing the lurking sense of danger that avoids the danger of toppling in Scooby-Dooism.
He's aided by his trio of actors who give splendid performances, pitched perfectly for this intimate space, beautifully lit by Chuma Emembolu.
Martin Prest doesn't go for the full menace of Christopher Lee as Edred, but he avoids a Carry-Onish Kenneth Williams vibe too, finding something in the middle to recount his exploits down the years as a kind of diabolical Flashman, always somewhere in the shadows of history, cavorting with Kit Marlowe or galloping with Genghis Khan.
James Hoyles and Zari Lewis have a lot of fun as curious students, Jacques and Elizabeth, with Lewis particularly convincing as she is reeled in by Edred's ever more enticing tales. I'd like to see her full Lady Macbeth one day too! If Jacques' secret is a little too obviously flagged up, well, it's hardly a whodunnit is it?
This is a world premiere of a play written in 2010 and it's wonderful to see it find a home at last (rather as Edred himself does). Though it's hardly a Wicker Man for the 21st century, it's a lot of fun and, presented all-through, it never drags - but that's plenty enough time for horror fans to get their teeth into an er... 21st century Wicca Man.