With the London Horror Festival 2018 (LHF) now underway, with meat cleaver in hand, we caught up with producer, Katy Danbury to learn more about the UK’s largest festival of live horror.
How did the London Horror Festival start?
The LHF was founded by Theatre of the Damned, a company dedicated to exploring the potential of onstage horror, who ran the festival from 2011–2013.
Their specialism was Grand Guignol. In 2011, rather than just staging another show of their own (Revenge of the Grand Guignol), they decided to find a way to bring as many people as possible together under one roof.
They created a platform for like-minded writers, directors and companies to display their work.
Thus, the LHF was born and various producers, including myself, have continued the model since.
Why is horror theatre important?
Essentially, it’s where it all began.
Before we could read or write or make films, humans told each other scary stories, perhaps to encourage belief in the supernatural, to frighten people away from breaking the rules or simply to entertain.
Horror is an extremely cathartic genre.
It invokes a huge variety of feelings and emotions. Nothing compares to seeing it all unravel right in front of you, in the same space.
It’s like a religious experience: your spine tingles, a cacophony of audible gasps, groans and shrieks erupt all around as you share scares with a gathering of people both fictional and non-fictional.
What’s your favourite element of the LHF?
I love that it encourages new theatre companies and artists to explore a genre that they might not otherwise have considered.
As well as celebrating the horror genre, the festival serves to provide a platform for new and original work by emerging theatre-makers, much like other fringe theatre festivals.
It is a tricky genre to get right but when it’s done, well it’s electric.
The LHF gives creatives a chance to experiment on a live audience and push the boundaries further than ever before.
It’s what our loyal audiences have come to expect – not one show is any way the same as another – you can easily see two wildly contrasting performances in one night.
Additionally, it encourages the traditional theatre-goer to try something different.
And it brings genre-lovers, who may never have attended the theatre before, into a new cultural space where they can re-ignite and further explore their passion.
What do you want audiences to get out of this year’s festival?
First and foremost, I want them to enjoy themselves.
The festival gives you a chance to escape from and purge yourself of the real-life horrors happening outside the theatre.
You are united with your fellow audience members in an intimate space and together you enter an imaginary world where you can shiver, scream, laugh or spew (please don’t!) out your fears.
What’s especially exciting about this year’s festival?
This is our biggest festival yet!
I am thrilled that, due to popular demand, I have been able to extend the LHF to run for a whole month this year. Last year, we had 23 productions. Now we are presenting 33!
We’ll see the return of many festival favourites, as well as welcoming a horde of new weird and wonderful artists to the LHF family.
The festival continues to demonstrate that people crave the live horror experience, and that film and literature aren’t just the be-all and end-all outlets for the genre.
Not only do audiences want more, artists are becoming increasingly aware of it’s potential by discovering exciting new ways to re-invent the genre for the stage.
The possibilities are endless.
Can you sum up the LHF in three words?
Thrilling, macabre, welcoming.
By Sam Essame
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