The UK’s original and largest festival of live horror performance is celebrating its tenth anniversary edition
The London Horror Festival was spawned in 2011 with the aim of championing the genre on stage, and in 2021 it returns with more in-the-flesh frights and continues to demonstrate that horror has well and truly proven its worth with theatre audiences.
The festival will take place at two accessible venues from 18-31 October, re-joining forces with The Pleasance Theatre in Islington, and expanding its reach down to the Isle of Dogs as it welcomes The Space, a former gothic church turned theatre, as a suitably spooky new host venue.
With support from sponsors Royal Ten Clothing, The Scent Coven, Dean of the Dead, and Sonar Red Music, the festival presents 28 spine-tingling productions and over 60 performances across two weeks, including both in-person and online events, finishing on the annual holy grail of the spooky season: Halloween.
This year’s edition includes a number of world premieres, as well as critically-acclaimed productions and award-winning companies, adopting a variety of performance styles from artists at all levels of their craft.
The festival launches on The Pleasance Main Stage on the 18th October with its annual playwriting competition presented by Danse Macabre Productions and hosted by Fred Strangebone, where three finalists battle it out with plays written to the theme Your Worst Nightmare. Winner of the 2019 Queer Horror Playwriting Competition and HallowQueen Lady Aria Grey returns the following night with the haunting Grey Widow.
The macabre carnival of creativity creeps across the city to take over The Space from the 19th October, where audiences can expect to meet unhinged characters from Edgar Allan Poe’s most terrifying tales in Threedumb Theatre’s captioned performances of One Man Poe, the ghost of the man who inspired Dracula – Henry Irving – in James Swanton’s Irving Undead, and even find themselves trapped inside an abandoned immersive show, surrounded by actors who have well and truly lost their minds, where they must desperately find some way to Stop It.
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LGBTQIA+ stories thrive in all forms, from cosmic romantic comedy SUCKER 4 U by Reece Connolly, to cabaret, drag, clowning, ventriloquism, and a new stage play from Distracted Rat Productions: To be a bat by Ariella Como Stoian, centring on a queer coming of age story fractured by loss.
If it’s psychological bone-chillers you’re seeking, Miranda’s Barrett’s new one act play Birdwatching presented by Anarchy Division is an account of gendered violence that is bound to disturb its witnesses to the very core, and Adwoa-Alexsis Mintah Presents Gabrielle MacPherson’s Offie-nominated Outside: a gruesome revenge tale of a woman who has slipped through the cracks of society that will prey on your mind for some time.
There’s ghost stories galore with Spirit Box by George Rennie and Sarah Gain Productions, a two-hander exploring digital identities and isolation, and David Alnwick’s part play, part magic show – Nightmare Magic – combines supernatural findings with elements of cosmic horror.
Feminist figures from the past come screaming back into the spotlight as Frankenstein’s author is resurrected by House of Macabre in a comedy-punk-rock retelling of her life, Mary Shelley: Muthamonster, and Catherine Montvoisin – the professional poisoner and suspected sorceress – lives again to tell her tale in Paprichoo’s La Voisin.
Online offerings include selected livestreamed shows and an immersive audio experience – Blind by Ryots Productions – that will unsettle audiences far and wide via their headphones, using binaural sound and sensory effects, while they sit at home in a dark room.
Join fellow thrill-shriekers this spooky season and envelop yourself in dazzling live horror entertainment as you count down the days to Halloween.