The Lampoons: House on Haunted Hill

Wed 1st – Sun 26th August 2018

reviews

Thomas Pymer

at 02:35 on 22nd Aug 2018

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‘The Lampoons: House on Haunted Hill’ was, unquestionably, the weirdest and silliest thing I have yet seen at the Edinburgh Fringe – which is saying something. Based on a 1950s horror film, it injects a healthy dose of madness and provides four prima-donna characters (who are themselves actors trying to put on a serious play) with which to do it.

It was a surreal play, both in the sense that it relied on surrealist humour and that it had a surrealist plot. From the presence of several Vincent Prices (each with a suitably ridiculous but very fine moustache) to a ghostly cat to the fact that there is a room in the cellar which is for some inexplicable reason filled with acid, it was moment by moment unpredictable and uncanny. Although I originally thought the play would unfold in the style of ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’, it quickly outgrew this and became rapidly more random to the point where I was genuinely looking forward to seeing what would happen next. From characterisation to plot, the actors are to be applauded for their creation of what turned into a very funny play.

However, the surrealism, although ‘The Lampoons’ trademark and major strength, was also arguably its greatest weakness. It became impossible to tell what was actually intended to be a part of the play proper, what was intended to be a part of the play’s humour. At one point during a particularly enthusiastic rant, it was possible to see all four giggling, which was either a moment when their demeanour slipped or a cunning double bluff. It just became too complicated to keep up with what was what. At least some of the time, it almost seemed as if they were making the play up as they went along with purely ad-libbed lines, even though there were some moments which were obviously scripted. There were layers within layers, and this made total enjoyment more confusing, although it was very clever.

The performance is to be commended on its use of lights. Flashing lights and silhouettes were used to great effect to create atmosphere or build up suspense and could turn something from funny to creepily haunting in a matter of seconds (and despite being a comedy, there were some moments which were genuinely scary). Combined with excellent sound, this made atmospheric creation in the performance extremely effective and the show wouldn’t have been half as good without it.

One thing I must also mention is costume. The costumes themselves were impressive enough, but the speed with which the actors changed from one to another is quite remarkable, especially with the variety of characters every actor ended up playing. It was characteristic of this high-energy play, and you will not appreciate just how impressive it was unless you see them in action.

In conclusion – well done to 'The Lampoons'. Go to this play if you want to laugh, shiver and become confused whilst still having a great evening. It was good fun and comes recommended.

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Lauren James

at 08:13 on 22nd Aug 2018

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Before taking our seats to watch The Lampoons’ production of ‘House on Haunted Hill’, we are encouraged to help ourselves to ping pong balls to be used at an unspecified point in the performance. This sets the tone for the bizarre, fun and interactive late-night comedy which follows the reimagining of a Hollywood classic.

The plot follows four strangers accepting the invitation of millionaire Vincent Price, who offers them $10,000 if they manage to endure a night spent at his haunted mansion. Disturbingly, their short stay manages to cover ghost cats, balaclava ballet and pickles.

Comprised of four professional actors, and one unassuming member of the audience who partakes in an underwear-finding gameshow, ‘House on Haunted Hill’ will have you laughing from the start. The rapport between the performers is genuine and they bounce off each other’s fumbles, adding to the humour of the piece. The hilarity of the show is very dependent on individual sense of humour; watching a grown man eat varying sizes of pickle whole is not to everyone’s taste, but if the prospect of this appeals, these sequences are effortlessly funny.

‘House on Haunted Hill’s’ staging is simple yet effective. The four doors are used masterfully in scenes ranging from the tour of the house to navigating the angles of a sex doll (acting as a corpse) as it is carried off through one them. However, other sequences are less successful. Compared to the quick wit and pace of the majority of the show, the exchange between Vincent Price and his wife, Annabel (played by Adam Elliott and Christina Baston) is laborious. Further, the dance breaks, particularly ‘We Are Vincent Price’ - an homage to the film’s original character - were unnecessarily long and, following them, the actors had to work hard at regaining the attention of the audience.

This said, on the whole, The Lampoons achieve what they set out to do which is to construct a show around the audience’s entertainment. To their credit, the utter madness and absurdity of ‘House on Haunted Hill’ leaves us wanting more.

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