All the seats in the Rehearsal Room are covered in sheets of dark grey plastic, taped together with silver duct tape. It rustles when you sit down or shift in your seat. Clothing is scattered onstage – shoes, shirts, jeans. A single lightbulb hangs from the ceiling, glowing sickly yellow.
Ebenhaezer Dibakwane performs in Horror Story on 10 July 2015 at the National Arts Festival. Horror Story explores the limits of fantasy and the numbing effects of graphic violence on a generation, the blurry line between truth and fiction, and what truly scares us. (Photo: CuePix/ Amanda Horsfield)
Whispering, faint, unintelligible, almost unnoticeable beneath the low babble of Horror Story’s audience. Yet it grows louder as the lights dim to absolute blackness. Someone begins to whistle Rock-a-bye Baby; the nursery rhyme is eerie in the darkness.
Horror Story is an unusual theatrical production. The name kind of gives the game away, but this is a horror play. While other shows at the Festival may aim to disquiet or disturb, few actively attempt to really scare.
The plot is relatively straightforward: two teenage boys watch a movie, Blood Screams, and are drawn to discover whether the film they have seen is really based on true events. Standard haunted house fare.
However, the manner in which Horror Story tackles the tale is skilful, and the characters have surprising depth. Noah (Sheraad Jacobs) is immensely sympathetic and the audience cares about his fate, which serves to greatly raise the stakes and the tension.
The play has moments of humour in the beginning, but soon darkens. This does not stop the audience from nervously giggling during the most suspenseful moments in the show, unconsciously trying to alleviate their fear. Horror Story is very good at creeping out its viewers. Clever lighting, unnerving dialogue, and fast-paced action propel the play, holding audiences enraptured.
The two actors are completely convincing in their roles. Ebenhaezer Dibakwane grows increasingly frightening in his depiction of the obsessed Wyatt, yet never becomes a remote figure of horror – his motivations remain understandable to the audience. Jacobs as Noah is a vulnerable and relatable teenage boy on the stage. Both actors are superb; if they were anything less, this piece would not work. The abusive relationship between the friends is frightening to watch, more so than any number of monsters crawling out of TV screens.
Cue student reporter
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