By Carmel Shortall
It’s the Saturday before Halloween and legions of the undead, in their blood-spattered finery, are shuffling through Camden. Some have made it to the Oxford Arms on Camden High Street and have swapped pints of blood for pints of cider and the odd glass of house red.
Upstairs in the Etcetera Theatre, the second London Horror Festival continues with Carnival of Crows, a darkly atmospheric slice of Victorian Gothic filtered through modern ‘goth’ sensibilities. With just a hint of Tim Burton.
Tragic, beautiful, Poppy is our narrator. The picture of corrupted innocence with her white face and smudgy eyes, she stands in her blood-stained pinafore; its grubby pocket stuffed with black feathers which she nervously shreds and casts about the stage.
By turns gleeful and sad, she tells a tale of grave-robbing and mutilation, of deadly puppets and dolls with their mouths sewn up and, finally, of the murder of her best friend, Virginia.
Virginia – Ginny – is fond of her gin and Poppy, understandably, is partial to opiates – in the form of that Victorian staple, laudanum. Together they are the Laudanum Sisters, assistants to the sinister carnival sideshow boss, Edward Friday.
Edward’s carnival – despite his sideline in providing human body parts for German medical students – is not doing well. The puppet show has had to close because of the death of the puppeteer; though this may have something to do with Coppice, the living puppet girl, who wants a human heart and doesn’t care how she gets it.
Does Edward murder Ginny and does Ginny’s ghost crawl out of the Thames, demanding one of Edward’s eyes to replace the one she’s lost to the fish? You’ll have to see it to find out but hurry – Carnival of Crows finishes Sunday.
Poppy’s eerie, disjointed world is conjured up in the Etcetera using suitably gothic props: lace, bird cages, dolls and masks as well as stark lighting, creating pockets of darkness in which anything might lurk while highlighting her expressive face.
Little Friday Theatre Co. are Molly Beth White and Celyn Ebnezeer but Carnival of Crows is a one woman show. White performs alone as Poppy and she both brilliantly and economically evokes Ginny crawling out of the Thames on broken arms and Edward, with only a top hat and a stick.
Sunday’s show starts at 8.30 and tickets are £11.50 and £9.50 conc. Etcetera Theatre is at 265 Camden High Street, above the Oxford Arms pub.
Still to come at the London Horror Festival is Zombie Science: Worst Case Scenario. “A spoof tutorial on the real science behind a zombeism outbreak.” If there is a zombie apocalypse – you can be sure it’ll be in Camden. Dates are 29th to 31st October, time is 7.30pm and tickets are £12 (£10 conc.)
Or you can see in Halloween with Aleister Crowley – A Passion For Evil. Same dates, later time of 9.30pm and tickets are £13 (£11 conc.)
The wonderful Tin Shed Theatre Company are bringing Dr Frankenstein’s Travelling Freakshow all the way from Wales so the least you can do is go and see them in Camden. A ringmaster, a lobster mind reader, a bearded lady and a chimp will keep the monster company. 2nd to 4th November, 9.30pm. Tickets are £12.