Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

Lamp Oil

Adam Chapter, Lucia Cox, Dolly-Rose Campbell and Rob Ward
House Of Orphans, Working Progress and The Eagle Inn
The Eagle Inn, Collier Street, Salford
28 October 2012 to 01 November 2012

Billed as “a Haunted Tale for Halloween”, this site-specific show at one of the city centre’s most historic and interesting pubs is another winner for producers House Of Orphans.

The Eagle Inn is nicknamed The Lamp Oil by the locals but ask any one of them why and you’ll probably get a different story from each. In this version, its history includes the ghastly misdeeds of the shadowy characters who actually collected the oil for lamps, using methods which make the activities of modern-day energy companies seem positively benign by comparison.

The nature of the production means that I can’t give too much away plot-wise but I can promise the sort of shocks that make The Lady In Black seem like something that could be programmed on C-Beebies. I can reveal that you’ll be greeted (I use the term loosely) by a positively intimidating landlord (Mark Sheals) who, even though he despises the prancing carryings-on of thespian types, has permitted the tiny backroom of his pub to be used for a Halloween entertainment.

We, it seems, are to be the audience for Dead Scary put on by the bickering and hilariously inept couple Dolly and Rob (Dolly Rose-Campbell and Rob Ward). But, on the way in, a regular  (Josh Moran, but James Foster on the Press Night) tries to warn us of the pub’s dark history. You’ll not be surprised to learn that things go horribly wrong but will, I confidently predict, be shaken and stirred by the clever quick-changes and pell-mell pace of the increasingly scary events that ensue.

Created and directed by Adam Chapter, with Lucia Cox also contributing as a writer and utterly invaluable sound and set design from Owen Rafferty and Meriel Pym, this really is something special. It’s rather a shame that it has such a short run and that only 17 people a night can enjoy the work, so you’ll be lucky if you can get in – although you might think differently while you’re getting scared drink-less!

Speaking of which, you can, of course, visit the wonderful pub itself sometime outside the performance times…

Reviewer: Kevin Bourke