It was the well-designed poster, an excellent homage to Hammer Horror films from the past, that caught my eye and had me take darkened alleyways, hustle past begging urchins and gin-soaked wenches (standard Brighton fare for a weekend) to Brighton HorrorFest.
There’s a rough diamond here that could be polished to something rather special.
Mistress to the Midnight is a 60-minute spoof paying tribute to the Hammer Horror films of years past – and is packed full of all the usual tropes that you’d expect to see. Anyone who has seen Dracula, or any similar film, won’t find themselves lost. Featuring everything you’d expect a film of that era to – a lawyer sent overseas, a girlfriend written to daily, a evil Chateau above a small Eastern Europe Village (Chateau MaPants – a recurring joke; if you’re trying to work it out, think about trying to get into it) and things that go bump in the night.
Opening with the cast explaining the history and demise of Anvil Studios (the production company responsible for the film) the show spends the first five minutes setting the scene. It’s an excellent start, packed full of jokes, and the cast seemed to have a gleam in their eye. Once the scene is set, the smoke machine turned to full, the ‘movie’ begins.
Given the strength of the opening five minutes, it left me wishing that the cast would break out of the movie and go back into a modern-explanatory scene directed towards the audience. Making more of the characters playing the roles – Donald Featherstone, Racquel Holliday, Bertram Mallister – as well as the history of Anvil studios and founder Beverley Anvil – would have provided a bit more depth to the spoof as well as keeping the jokes from becoming too repetitive. An aside such as ‘During the next scene’s filming Bertram died on set, see if you can spot it’ would help tee up the next joke.
With a cast of three attempting umpteen roles during the show, the character and quick-changes are superb - backstage must have been manic. There are always going to be prop and set limitations with a show of this nature, however they need to make more of what they’ve got. There’s a scene set in a bedroom which replicates a bed – and left me hoping that something clever was going to happen with the two other characters holding the sheets. Other scenes could also make cleverer use of props – and a door wouldn’t have gone amiss in the show, given the amount of exits/entrances.
It’s a perfectly enjoyable hour – the cast are excellent and the quick changes formidable. The central theme of a British Horror Production Company’s history alongside a film from their back catalogue works, although there needs to be more balance between the two. I couldn’t fault the ‘film’ itself, although I didn’t necessarily need to see it all – we know what’s going to happen so there’s time to pause and return to exposition. There’s a rough diamond here that could be polished to something rather special.