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Script - Nicola McCartney
Company - Frantic Assembly
Directors - Steven Hoggett & Scott Graham
Choreographer - T.C.Howard
Venue - Traverse Theatre (0131 228 1404)
Dates - 5th-6th April, 8pm. Also returning for the Edinburgh Fringe at Pleasance 1
Tickets - £9 (£4.50)
Reviewer - Daniel Winterstein

Horror is one of those genres that almost exclusively belongs to Hollywood. Frantic Assembly's new play though is a reminder that the stage can be just as effective at scaring the wits out of an audience. It combines theatre and dance to give an intense and exciting show. Loosely based on Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining", Underworld is a story of ghosts and violence. Four women are stranded in a remote house by snow and a power cut. They include Lydia Baksh as a neurotic psychic who can see nasty things in the house's past. The other women's initial high spirits change to fear as the bad omens mount up. Although the plot doesn't break any new ground, the characters are fleshed out well, lifting the story considerably above the usual standard for the genre.

The cast are excellent, both as dancers and actors. The mix of text and physical theatre works very well, especially the high-octane nightmare sequences. Music - powerful driving stuff such as Nine Inch Nails - is used to good effect. From the very beginning until the final lights down, the audience is never allowed to relax. The pace is (generally) fast. Plot development is brilliantly done, and the tension builds up consistently to the story's violent end.

In terms of thrills, there's nothing quite on the level of, say, Jack Nicholson coming at you with an axe. After the superb build up, the finale is something of a dissappointment: the `fight dance' is the play's weakest point, and is stretched out too long.

Overall though, Underworld is professional and exciting. Ghosts, murder and dance in a genuinely scary combination.


© Daniel Winterstein 1998-2008

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