‘Sorority House of the Dead’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by August 30, 2013

Sorority, House of the Dead’ is the Australian Premier of American playwright, Mitch Brian’s vampire filled, black comedy from Dark Psychic Productions and Phoenix Theatre Inc. Mitch Brian’s ‘Maul of the Dead’ featuring zombies in May, was a sell-out.

As vampires seem to be the in thing at the moment, this sanguinary, spooky show is being brought to you at the Phoenix Theatre, Memorial Hall, at the corner of Rockingham Road and Carrington Street, Hamilton Hill. The performance dates are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays until the 7th September. All shows commence at 8.00 pm, with a Saturday matinee on the 7th at 2.00 pm.

All profits from programme sales, along with donations, will be given – quite appropriately – to ‘Haemophilia Foundation of WA’. I hope the donations will be as free flowing as the blood in this show.

The scene is the entrance hall of an old mansion in 1987 (set Brian Dennison and Wayne Gale).

A smartly dressed lady takes a seat in the sitting room of her newly acquired mansion, and her Igor-like manservants (Pat McMahon and Daniel Muller) look after her every need. She is the mysterious Mrs B. (Kathleen Uhlmann) who has purchased a house that has stood empty and decaying for some 60 years. As she welcomes us to her home, her private DJ, Maestro D (Sean Drill) plays sweet music.

Mrs B allows her niece, Janet (Kate Lloyd) to use the house as Delta Pi Sigma’s ‘sorority house’ – a club house for her elite student friends.

It is evening time, and in the street three students, ‘hot’ Deb (Jayde Clark), trendy Sissy (Leah Fitzgerald) and daggy virgin, Tonya (Jessica Lowes) are looking for the house where the freshers’ party is being held. They hear a noise, and there, in the distance is a chainsaw wielding maniac (Shaun Griffin). They hammer on the front door and are welcomed into safety by two of Mrs B’s enigmatic girls, powerful Brenda (Macauley Bremner) and the ‘thirsty’ Holly (Alesha Kays). They find that some other Hamilton College friends, Crystal, Shelley and Mackenzie (Nikayla Besgrove, Gabi Guidone and Kylie Griffin) have arrived selling cookies for the girl scouts. In the corner, they spot the class heartthrob Greg (Chris Northover) but as they approach him, he is whisked off to another room by the manipulative Holly.

When Mrs B calls in to the gathering, a quick point of her finger and students Lance (James Buckland), Jarrod (Kane Anamwong) and Riley (Rhiannon Peterson) are given the task of ‘entertaining’ the newcomers.

Can love overcome evil? The regular antidotes don’t seem to work on Mrs B !!

 

I don’t think that I have seen a straight vampire play before. This is a wonderful spoof on the Hammer horror films of the 80s, with all the gore and horrendous situations. This very black comedy got off to quite a slow start. It was the play’s opening night and initially the pace was well off and the voices mainly had poor projection but good enunciation. After about quarter of an hour the fairly inexperienced cast got into their stride and the show took off magnificently.

The direction by Ryan McNally and his assistant Emma Muller, was well thought out and the movement creepy. Near the end of the play, the playwright decided that he hadn’t made the ending gruesome enough and so did an ingenious and hilarious ‘rewind’, before starting again. This brought a huge applause from the audience.

The costumes were excellent, filled with the fluoros and colours of the hippy era. The lighting and sound played a major part in the atmosphere of the play, and Alex and Rebecca Coutts-Smith’s tech design excelled. The timing of the effects was critical and operator Brett Muller was on the ball. With a cast of almost two dozen, the stage managers Sheryl Gale and Jessica Byrum had their work cut out.

Fangs for the memory. A little silly, definitely tongue-in-cheek, but great fun. May your season flow well.