The inspiration Darkness Rising owes to Hot Fuzz is clear from the first scene, as policemen of varying levels of incompetency gather round a corpse found in a pentagram. Pretty soon it becomes obvious that Inspector Thomspon must leave London for deepest countryside to investigate potentially homicidal villagers, some of whom he finds ooh-arr-ing down the pub. Sound familiar? However, while moments of the comedic play echo the tone and even the content of the Pegg and Frost film, the biggest laughs came when their more off the wall style shone through.Despite being labelled as a sketch show a continuous narrative and largely consistent plot propel the action at a good pace, though a few scenes stretch on to incorporate jokes that aren’t worth the effort. The story of mysterious murder and satanic ritual is just the right side of obvious for an effective parody. The more surreal elements are handled brilliantly and thankfully not wasted as throwaway lines, so each confused chuckle is sure to be followed by a proper guffaw ten or twenty minutes later. The show is also surprisingly physical, so excellent stage fights and manoeuvres pepper the action and demonstrate the skill of the four actors.
Moreover the horror set-up is enlivened by the presence of entirely unexpected characters. Tom Bridges’ cartwheeling vicar is a particularly good spin on an old exorcist trope, while Alistair Linsell fills the stage with personality in almost every character he takes on. However, Adam Brooker seemed nervous with low-energy throughout, and as a consequence, his characters seem blander by comparison - a pity, since in a cast of four his part is pretty vital. Jack Munns does well as the straight man of the piece, but could do with remembering to act engaged even when his character isn’t engaged in conversation.
The show relies on fairly simple but effective lighting to drench some scenes in blood, while the whole performance works really well in the small space. The live music provided - via electric keyboard and accordion - by Alex Howgego proves an excellent touch, especially as actors and musician work together with brilliant comic timing. By no means is the show perfect but there are a whole host of good ideas crammed into the hour, all gory-iously entertaining.