Sam returns to The Pleasance once again, this time to their more intimate Stage Space to see Somna Theatre Company’s one-woman horror Infinity Land.
Before I’d even set-off to the theatre, I spotted a Twitter sneak peek of the set and fell head over heels for it. Especially considering the infamous pressures and limitations of theatre fringe festivals, Hannah Batt has managed to work miracles (just see for yourself).
Once I’d settled into my seat to a soundtrack of superbly unsettling music, London Horror Festival co-producer Katy Danbury reminded me that the title was taken from serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s name for his ‘special place’.
Then it went dark. The sound stopped. And somebody started singing “Mama had a baby and her head popped off”.
They definitely knew how to grab my attention.
Based on the real-life story of Jaycee Dugard, Infinity Land charts the mental breakdown of a clearly troubled mother while a man who calls himself ‘The Witness’ waits around outside, occasionally uttering the question: “Can you hear the angels, J?”
Starting with the strong sense that something wasn’t right, the one-woman soliloquy descended deep into a nightmare, effectively conveyed in Robbie Heath and Morgan Noll’s script and captivatingly captured by Belle Schuler, all wrapped up tight in her terrible, tarpaulin tent, trying to escape the outside world.
The production packed so much into the design that I could spend an entire review talking about that alone.
I’ve already confessed my undying love for Hannah Batt’s set and it didn’t disappoint in person. It felt claustrophobic and limiting yet Schuler seemed so at home; it was the perfect backdrop to J’s Infinity Land.
Heath’s sound design was expertly crafted, both creepy and creative, only its application to the production itself often felt like it was interrupting something it shouldn’t have done. The moments sound pierced the play didn’t follow any particular rules so I was left wondering what role it had to play beyond simply providing atmosphere.
Swapping from writer to director, Noll and co-director Annys Whyatt clearly had a tornado of ideas whirling through their brains, some more effectively executed than others but nonetheless supporting the story (I especially loved the moment where hands reached through the tarpaulin and pulled J back).
The star of the story was, in many ways, Heath and Noll’s script.
The play’s resolution is really what gave Infinity Land its bite. By turning our attention away from tormented and tormentors alike and shifting it to criticise how we indulge in true crime and ‘murder porn’, the story perfectly placed itself into a world where Ted Bundy recently became flavour of the month.
(J referring to podcasts about her life with confusion and disgust was an especially apt choice).
In fact, the ending had such a kick it didn’t need bold expositional statements to reveal J’s kidnapping; something smaller was all that was required to answer the question we all wanted answered. Less, in this case, was definitely more.
Verdict: Whilst elements of the production lacked precision, the creativity injected into this fascinating and powerful story is a perfect demonstration as to why we need more horror onstage.
By Sam Essame
The London Horror Festival takes place until the 2nd November at The Pleasance Theatre, and The Old Red Lion Theatre, Islington. Click here for our full preview.