Writer: Adam Chapter /Lucia Cox
Director: Adam Chapter
Reviewer: Brian Gorman
I cannot think of a better venue for this thrill-a-minute extravaganza than an old fashioned traditional Salford pub, hidden away down a pretty desolate back street (Collier Street, which, incidentally, you’d be very wise to check on a map before trying to find it). On arrival the audience were requested to remain outside on the pavement until the front door opened and we were confronted by the supremely intimidating landlord (played by Mark Sheals delivering a nightmarish version of a Salfordian publican). Fixing us with a stare that would reduce Ray Winstone to a quivering wreck, we were bundled inside and given a deliciously frosty welcome to The Eagle Inn – nicknamed ‘The Lamp Oil’ by locals in the know about its gruesome history.
When the landlord disappeared to fetch some ice (even though he’d told us he only served “bitter, bitter, and water for the under 18s”) there was a couple of minutes of silence which greatly added to the genuinely disturbing and unsettling atmosphere, before a hunched figure at the bar (‘The Regular’) began to fill us in on why we should be seriously contemplating running for the exit. James Foster (unfortunately only performing on the press night) gave an electrifying performance as a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown, at times going almost nose to nose with various members of the audience as he explained how a mysterious secret society of oil men would murder unsuspecting drinkers and reduce them to ‘lamp oil’.
In such an intimate venue, enhanced by beautifully atmospheric lighting and actors literally breathing down our collective necks, this was theatre at its most raw and effective. There was no place to hide as we were herded through the otherwise empty pub and gradually reduced to trembling wrecks by our gruesome host.
The play within a play, ‘Dead Scary’, performed by the endlessly squabbling and ham-fisted ‘actors’ Dolly and Rob, was a perfectly pitched treat. And then, of course, out went the lights and this is where the roller coaster ride truly began. Dolly-Rose Campbell (petite, delightful, and ready to rip heads off at a moment’s notice) and Rob Ward (engaging and confident) were a superb double act whose energy and exhausting enthusiasm made for an often hysterical and pulse-pounding evening.
We were dragged from one shadowy room to another with a bewildering array of deranged characters battering at doors and suddenly appearing from nowhere to scream dire warnings and generally scare the living daylights out of us. Co-writer (with Lucia Cox) and director Adam Chapter made excellent use of every corner of The Eagle Inn, with characters appearing at windows, battering down doors from the outside, and even turning up… sorry, there are some things I can’t reveal. See it for yourself, but be warned; it’s “Dead Scary!”