Liam Rudden: London's West End turns to horror ahead of festive season

JUMP scares, Ouija boards, monsters and madness, there's a theme running through London's West End just now, so if you're a fan of horror films, there is no better time to plan a theatre break.

Monday, 27th November 2017, 4:31 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 1:21 am
The Exorcist
The Exorcist

First on the list of my current London trip was the much praised stage version of Mel Brooks’ madcap movie Young Frankenstein, at the Garrick Theatre.

Thunder crashes and lightening flashes to signify the start of this fast-paced, innuendo- laden, and often hilarious romp starring Hadley Fraser as the original mad scientist’s grandson Frederick Frankenstein, Birds of a Feather star Lesley Joseph in fine form as the sinister housekeeper Frau Blucher, and a very physical Ross Noble as Igor, the role made famous by Marty Feldman.

There’s also a nice turn by Summer Strallen as Frankenstein’s ‘nympho’ assistant Inga and a show-stealing performance by the brilliantly funny Dianne Pilkington as Elizabeth Benning.

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Politically incorrect from the outset, Young Frankenstein is outrageous fun that won’t be for everyone, but certainly a show worth seeing for a cast in perfect synchronicity.

Another night, another theatre, another horror story and another show opening involving thunder and lightning - albeit a far more effective use of said effects.

The Exorcist, at the Phoenix Theatre, is quite simply the most chilling piece of theatre I’ve seen in years.

Faithful to William Peter Blatty’s original, director Sean Mathias utilises every trick in the book to send real shivers down the spine.

A story of the possession of a young girl, the piece is played with complete conviction by a cast led by Peter Bowles and Jenny Seagrove... and the scares just keep coming - the famous head-turning scene is beautifully constructed and draws involuntary gasps from the audience.

With incense wafting through the auditorium and bells tolling, the atmosphere throughout is electric, not least due to Clare Louise Connolly’s demonic Regan who channels the insidious spirit, mesmerisingly voiced by Ian McKellen.

A must see, but you will jump out of your seat more than once.

Last of the unholy trinity on this trip was a return to New Jersey with The Toxic Avenger.

A curtailed version of the musical (based on the Troma movie of the same name that first hit cinemas 35 years ago) played the Fringe earlier this year to rave reviews.

I’m happy to report nothing has changed.

The story of a mild mannered scientist transformed into an unlikely ‘super-hero’ during his quest to banish toxic waste and make the world a greener place, is timely.

The Toxic Avenger boasts a talented five-strong cast. So if you like your music raucous and loud and your comedy less than subtle, this could just be for you.

There are belly laughs aplenty and some admirable vocals from Natalie Hope, Emma Salvo and new Toxie, Ben Irish, arguably the best in the role yet.

But be quick, The Toxic Avenger, at The Arts Theatre, closes soon.

So, if you fancy a scare or two before the slapstick of the panto season kicks in and have a weekend in London planned, check out these must-see shows.