Many of us have experienced the horror of meeting our significant other’s parents for the first time. It brings anxiety, awkwardness and in Medium Rare’s new show Midwyntar a group of sinister cult-like figures.
The horror of visiting your in-laws for Christmas dialled up to 11
Po (Eleanor Rattenbury) is meeting her girlfriend Rowan’s (Megan Jarvie) family for the very first time. The pair have a strong chemistry which is rather unplausibly undermined by the time we reach the conclusion of the piece. To meet Rowan’s family Po heads to the strange town of Midwyntar where there are no churches to be seen at all. When she arrives to the cosy, but strangely decorated set of Megan’s country home she meets the family: Fran (Diane Axford), Stephen pronounced in the old English way Stee-fen and Cousin Adrian from a vague place in the United States (Derek Mitchell giving a standout unhinged performance). As more alcohol is consumed and more party games are played the thin veneer of normality begins to slip and the more sinister purpose of the Midwyntar celebration is revealed.
Midwyntar (written by Jacob Lovick and Jack Robertson) is billed as a horror comedy, but it is certainly more horrifying than it is comedic. Whilst there are occasional comedic moments such as Stephen suggesting that the trick to winning the meat raffle “is to buy more tickets than anyone else”, the horrific elements of this show certainly win out. The sinister energy is built from the opening with a choral version of In the Bleak Midwinter forming the backdrop to a man in a peculiar Santa mask worn with menace by Derek Mitchell. This energy is carried through and the tension builds throughout the show. References to a recently deceased Nana Nora whose ashes are placed above the TV build the mystique effectively and the we begins to question whether the Grandmother really is dead, especially as her "throne" is kept untouched in the corner. The horror builds to a crescendo in a genuinely skin crawling moment where Po is sleeping alone on the downstairs sofa bed with the lights flickering on and off. A very well directed scene which created a palpable tension in the room.
The problem is that all of this horror doesn’t really go anywhere. Creepy elements are set up, but the pay off is a bit lacklustre and there is too little explanation of what is actually going on in Midwyntar. Tonally it is rather uneven with the comedy moments occasionally veering into absurdity which undermine much of the well crafted horror. The play is also a bit too long and in some scenes it is very apparent. The momentum of Midwyntar is checked by scenes that outstay their welcome and some uneven performances.