Reviewed – 24th October 2021
“Lights Out is thrillingly unconventional, sits in a sweet spot of tension and comedy”
It’s that time of the year again: London Horror Festival is in full swing, providing all manner of uneasiness to get you feeling spooky for Halloween. The festival often does a great job of making space for quirkier, off-beat shows, and Lights Out proves that this year is no different, with this fantastic role-playing stage seance from Merely Roleplayers and Blackshaw Theatre Company.
Moving from their regular podcast format to the Pleasance Theatre, the Merely Roleplayers ensemble (consisting of Natalie Winter, Alexander Pankhurst, Helen Stratton, and Richard Stratton, with Matt Boothman hosting) take on the characters of the Blackout Four – a group of Londoners who (apparently) went mysteriously missing on the Northern Line in 2017. Under eerie candlelight, they try to recreate the events of that night to discern what happened, improvising their way through a story whose outcomes are dictated by tarot cards.
If you’ve ever played Dungeons and Dragons or any similar sort of role-playing game, the rules will feel familiar. The actors describe what their characters do and perform any dialogue they might have, while the host keeps things running smoothly and dictates what’s happening in the world. When an actor chooses to do something that will irrevocably affect the story, the suit of the tarot card they draw decides whether the outcome will be hopeful or sinister. There’s a bit more nuance to it than that, but the rules are easy to follow during the show. It’s a great device for keeping the proceedings spontaneous and engaging, with the actors having to make some very difficult spur-of-the-moment decisions.
Thankfully, the cast are all very much up to the task – Winters in particular does an excellent job as the emotional core of the group, encouraging characters who start off very comedic, such as Richard Stratton’s narcissistic journalist, to open up and reveal more complex shades of their personality. Boothman is also stellar as the host, ensuring the pace of the story never drops, and painting some striking images with his narration.
Considering the whole show is consisted of five people speaking from behind a table, it carries a lot of flair – the use of candles provides a suitably spooky atmosphere, and the team’s dynamic and confidence enraptures you in their narrative. Lights Out is thrillingly unconventional, sits in a sweet spot of tension and comedy, and is absolutely worth your time this Halloween.
Reviewed by Ethan Doyle
Pleasance Theatre as part of London Horror Festival 2021
Previously reviewed at this venue this year: