Friday 3rd November 2017 at Leeds Carriageworks (Studio).
Odd Doll’s Seaside Terror is a fantastic take on the farcical nature of 1970s horror tropes and the decaying interest in seaside holidays. We are transported to Southpaw, a once loved but now run-down seaside town which harbours a decidedly disquieting ice cream man who delights in telling spooky tales of the victims and residents of this sleepy town. Dishing out ice creams between various short narratives of the surprising dooms awaiting people, there are lashings of laughs, a light-heartedness masking a darker intent and an abundance of ingenuity on display.
Ali Allen’s set design for this production is wonderful and deserving of recognition. A full-sized ice cream van dominates the stage and from the serving window appear the various puppet sized locations on which each tale is played out. The sets in miniature are impressive in their detail and match the quality of the puppetry design from Odd Doll stitch for stitch – it’s visual spectacle in miniature and it’s an absolute treat to behold. The van is marvellously multi-functional and offers surprising revelations while all the while harbouring the final shock of the finale – relatively simple in concept and construction, it’s a canny piece of design and is crucial to the exaggerated reveals throughout. Paul Mosley’s musical accompaniment also plays a vital role in the piece, with haunting undertones, classic horror notes and a few perfectly placed songs adding the withering floral design to this intricately iced cake. The song of the poor singer captures some unexpected poignancy amongst the silliness, remaining memorable even now.
Despite the substantial demands of this show, it is a two hander and is brought into being by the skilled hands of Kathleen Yore and Rebekah Caputo; the pair puppeteer and voice a wide range of characters and as they don both all black clothing and a full veil, they ensure that every ounce of attention is on their grotesquely brilliant characters. Their voice characterisations are not just aptly suited to the aesthetic of each character, they are glaringly perfect and oddly charming. There’s a delightfully familiar cockney landlady with a dark soul, a stuffy, anxious professor with condescension running through his fictional veins and a variety of other thoroughly engaging puppets which capture imaginations for the duration. While the puppeteering is not built around nuance, it is skilled and expressive, making each character credible and life-like in their combusting Polly Pocket surroundings. Watching the pair navigate across and around each other within the challenging confines of an ice cream van converted into performance space is hair raising at times but that only adds to the impressive spectacle – it’s near impossible to find fault with such ambitious and inventive design choices and use of space.
At the close of each narrative, our ice cream vendor host, played by Yore, re-appears to lament the loss of a way of life, to reflect on the doom just delivered and to prepare us for the forthcoming edition of grim and grisly tales at the seaside. The character is full to the brim with gusto and bluster – he knows his mind and he wants us to know it too. Guffawing and connecting with his audience through humour and over-zealous eye contact, he’s one hell of an engaging MC. This troubled soul also offers generous introductions to the tales and the writing from Adam Z.Robinson and Odd Doll is brilliantly tongue in cheek; somewhere between Point Horror sensationalism and farce laced with threat, it’s a strong performance from all angles with Seaside Terror.
There’s too much to love about this show not to whole-heartedly recommend it. It’s a hoot and a half but harbours a little emotion and a few well timed moments of genuine unease to boot. The cast are an impressively nimble and dexterous duo supported by a talented design team and I hope to see much more of this company.
Seaside Terror tours Yorkshire and beyond until February 2018 and you can find more information about venues and the like here.