THE DEMON BRIDE. Written and directed by Louis Viljoen, with Craig Jackson, Sarah Potter, Bianca Flanders, Carel Nel and Andrew Roux. Set design: Rocco Pool. Light design: Benjamin du Plessis and Sean Whitehead. Sound design: James Webb. Costume design: Widaad Albertus. Fugard Theatre.

Photographs: Daniel Rutland Manners

'The Demon Bride' KAREN RUTTER reviews

Fuck Fuckity Fuck.

[Note to ed: appropriately gratuitous use of the word “fuck” to start this review. Also, look out for “dick”, “balls”, “blue balls”, “jizz” and “arsehole”. They may also make an appearance.]

Playwright and director Louis Viljoen, he of the occasional Fleur du Cap award and position as Writer in Chief at the Fugard, has turned his hand to the comedy-horror genre with his latest production. Punted as “unlike anything we’ve ever seen on stage”, a “thrilling theatrical sensory experience” and “gripping and hilarious”, The Demon Bride is set in the Cape winelands. A wedding party finds itself stuck in a haunted house on a decaying wine farm. The bride gets possessed by a demon, and chaos ensues. The audience is blown away by the coolness of the concept, and a cult show is born.

Fuck fuckity fuck. Not.

One of the main challenges with The Demon Bride is that it doesn’t actually seem to know what it is. There’s a lot of farce. There’re some scary bits. An awkward attempt at rom-com-porno. A character copied from either the cripple in Scary Movie 2 or Riff Raff from the Rocky Horror Show. Attempts at humour. Attempts at cultural in-jokes. The problem is, it just doesn’t hang together very tightly. It’s too scattered. And it’s too drawn out.

The gory bits

That’s another of the challenges – it takes ages to get to the supposedly frightening breaks. (Which are pretty short anyway – there’s only so long you can keep a strobe on). The majority of the play is spent on the build up, establishing who’s who in the wedding party and their backstory. Hullo? We really don’t need to know so much about these people – it’s a horror plot, not Chekhov. They are there merely to facilitate the gory bits.

Also, the script is not very funny. Viljoen’s standard Tourette-induced dialogue conjured up a few nervous titters at the first outbursts of “anal reaming” and “cock slapping”, but it’s not exactly a laugh fest. Unless one is purely looking at the farcical aspect – people getting locked into cupboards, and so forth. Then it’s like Alan Ayckbourn, but in Stellenbosch.

And we’ll just have to say it again – fuck fuckity fuck.

Because the real disappointment about this production is its feel of an opportunity missed. The horror genre – whether it be captured on film, or in graphic novels, comic books, penny dreadfuls – screams out for send-up, for cynicism, for self-aware spoof. You see it in movies like Scream, where the characters reference other horror films (and sorry, one reference to Game of Thrones doesn’t count. Also, curling your index finger and crooning “Red Rum” is so overdone). This element just didn’t happen, despite the attempt at hammy discourse.

And if you’re not going to go the spoof route, then go full Stephen King and scare the shit out of us.

What grade was that?

But don’t give us this inbetween, this not-knowing-where-one’s-own-arsehole-is [Note to Ed: see, I warned you it was coming], this drawn-out silliness. It’s not even B-grade horror (which is pretty delicious in itself). It isn’t really any grade. And the lack of dynamics contributes to this flatline further – it’s all shouty.

Anyhoo, not to dwell on the negative. Bianca Flanders was fabulous in the title role, and looked like she was having a great time (especially when she did the batshit-weirdo-standing-in-a-strobelight bits). And the soundscape by James Webb was brilliant – atmospheric, clear, and yes, creepy.

But for fuck’s sake, don’t let this review put you off. Viljoen has a great reputation, the play is professionally staged, and the actors give it all they have (very loudly, most of the time). Check it out. See what you think …

[Note to ed: the play makes use of strong language throughout. Which explains the above review. And why The Demon Bride has a no-under-18 age restriction.]

What: The Demon Bride

Where and when: Fugard Studio Theatre from 8 May to 2 June 2018