Go to Hell!
Reviewed – 23rd October 2019
“Ronald and Henty rework and polish this stuff like the master craftsmen they are“
Go To Hell! presented by The Electric Head, is a satirical reworking of Dante’s Inferno. Playing for one night at the Pleasance Theatre in Islington as part of the 2019 London Horror Festival, it attracted a full house of fans who like their terror with a lot of laughs on the side. Billed as a “Live Radio Show,” the stage was set up as a show about to be recorded, with microphones and an impressive sound effects desk. The audience’s enjoyment throughout this entertaining show was genuine and hearty—no need for canned laughter at this event.
Cy Henty and Al Ronald are the writers and creative team behind this feast of fear and fun, and they met, appropriately enough, while filming KillerKiller. Go To Hell! is a script they’ve been working on for several years. In this production, Ronald directs and takes on the role of Dante’s stand in as the naively positive Karloff, whilst Henty takes on a number of roles including the diabolical Scrote. Together with Paul Battin as the Narrator, these three make a terrific team on stage, very ably assisted by the skills of sound and special effects guy Marc Lubienski-Steele.
Henty and Ronald’s version of Dante follows the Italian poet’s path through Hell pretty faithfully, but what sets this version apart from its medieval source, is that Ronald and Henty have reimagined the events in the context of the twentieth first, rather than the fourteenth, century. So they imagine a Britain where the NHS has been privatised, and where those well enough to be discharged from hospital must work in a pharmaceutical corporation to pay off their medical debts. Cue lots of evil laughter from CEO Scrote bent on driving his hapless employees to madness or worse. Ultimately the joke is on him, of course, as Henty’s Karloff finds something good in even the most horrific of situations. He counters Scrote’s vision of corporate servitude with his own vision of a world devoted to love and art. Without giving away the ending, let’s just say that there are a number of hellbent downsides to both visions, and these play out to hilarious effect.
Go To Hell! does not just borrow from Dante, however. It borrows from classic radio shows as well. There are ironic advertisements to begin (shades of Prairie Home Companion), and fans of 70s radio shows will find echoes of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy in Paul Battin’s soothing voice. As the Narrator, Battin provides the same kind of calming contrast as The Hitch-hiker’s character The Book did, and he helps provide context while Ronald and Henty delve deep in the comedic insanity of their own journey. There’s also a trace of Arthur Dent in Henty’s often bewildered (though still positive) Karloff as he encounters each new circle of hell—also renamed and reimagined as the Circle of the Consumer; the Circle of the Commuter, to give just a couple of examples—in the same way that Dent struggles to make sense of each new planet that he encounters in The Hitchhiker’s Guide. Go To Hell! may mine its material from several sources, but they are rich veins of content, and Ronald and Henty rework and polish this stuff like the master craftsmen they are.
Go To Hell! is light years away from The Inferno, but this contemporary mashup captures the twenty-first century zeitgeist perfectly, skewering it with pinpoint accuracy.
Reviewed by Dominica Plummer
Go to Hell!
Pleasance Theatre as part of London Horror Festival
Previously reviewed at this venue: