Edinburgh Horror Fest

Oct 27 2023 | By More

Five-strong theatre slate for this year’s oogly fest

Little known stories from children’s author E Nesbit headline the Edinburgh Horror Festival which returns today, with a slate of five fringe-length theatre offerings, each playing over four nights at the Banshee Labyrinth to Sunday 29 October 2023.

The programme also includes magic shows, comedy and cabaret at the Labyrinth as well as events out at Lauriston Castle. Not to forget a spine-chilling wealth of one-night stands at the Labyrinth on Halloween itself, Tuesday 31 October.

The Shadow in the Dark performers: R.H. Hale, Skye Morrison and Annie Cook.

The productions running over four nights in the Banshee Labyrinth are typically intriguing. The shows are running in both the Chamber Room and the Cinema Room, so you’ll have to go over two nights if you want to see everything.

There’s The Shadow in the Dark: a rare performance of two horror stories by Railway Children author E Nesbit (tickets); Sycamore Grove: a new play discovered through the Traverse’s open submissions programme (tickets); and Tarmac Lullaby: previews of a new anthology of urban gothic short stories from the ever reliable Crested Fools (tickets).

Early evening there is I See Red: an a semi-autobiographical absurdist horror, which dissects his experience of gender (tickets); and later in the evening sees the welcome return of The Devil in the Belfry (tickets) in which Edgar Allan Poe’s satirical short “grows arms, legs and teeth in a fantastical and frantic monologue” by Dave Robb, directed by Flavia D’Avila.

Crested Fools

Tarmac Lullaby (7.55pm, Cinema Room) sees Crested Fools turn away from the natural world of their recent productions, The Rotting Hart and Becquer’s Legends, to an anthology show of urban gothic, held together, it would seem, by a casual meeting with Isla from Merryburn, whose sweet stories once kept the kids amused.

But now the tales she shares are different. There are blood-weeping daughters, tech-shackled crones, women kept hostage by the granite grey walls of their high-rise flats. The question is where these stories are all coming from – and who are they really about?

Daniel Williams

Sycamore Grove (6.25pm, Chamber Room) is a suburban horror by Daniel Williams about a couple who discover magic is real and that they can manifest the life they always wanted. But what will it cost to maintain this new, idealized lifestyle?

The play, which is a sideways look at addiction and relationships, was discovered through the Traverse’s Open Submissions programme. It’s directed by Liam Rees, who recently directed JD Stewart’s The Devil Drinks Cava for A Play, A Pie and A Pint at Oran Mor, and contains a cast of Edinburgh locals including Conor O’Dwyer, Cara Watson, Nicholas Alban and Rebecca Wilkie.

Edith Nesbit

Quite the most intriguing of productions is The Shadow in the Dark (Chamber Room, 7.40pm), which brings another side of celebrated children’s author Edith Nesbit into the light.

Nesbit’s books for children – including the Railway Children, the Psammead series (which started with Five Children and It) and the Bastable books, including the Wouldbegoods – have endured. Most know them through their several notable adaptations for TV and cinema, including, of course the 1970 movie starring Jenny Agutter.

Less well remembered are Nesbit’s novels and short stories for adults. The stories frequently feature themes of marital sadness, heartache, and distress, often thought to be influenced by her own unhappy marriage to husband Hubert Bland, according to co-producer and Edinburgh Horror Festival founder Ash Pryce.

Alongside these themes, Nesbit’s horror stories feature extraordinary, larger-than-life characters; unsettling atmospheres and macabre, imaginative worlds reminiscent of the writings of canonised horror writers such as M.R. James.

The play explores Nesbit’s own unsettling experiences and memoirs and features an all-female cast, including critically acclaimed horror writer R.H. Hale (The Church Mouse) as Edith Nesbit herself. It contains recreations of a Magic Lantern, the popular Victorian-era projector used for the creation of “Phantasmagoria” – horror images, slides, and shows projected onto the stage to terrify and thrill audiences in Nesbit’s time.

“Outside of a biographical play some years ago, there hasn’t been much looking at the world of Edith Nesbit in recent years, and practically nothing on her horror works”, says to co-producer Theresa Dewa. “I love the eerie atmosphere and unsettling vibes she presents, and the Banshee Labyrinth at the Horror Festival is the perfect small, intimate home for these ghost stories.”

The two stories framed by Hale as Nesbit will be The Shadow, about a shadowy figure encountered by Miss Eastwich (Skye Morrison), exploring identity, heartache and horror; and In the Dark, a story in which unreliable narrator Winston recounts the life of a mad and murderous school friend (played by Annie Cook of Warped Productions) who is haunted not by a ghost, but by the very real body of his victim.


Shows playing Thurs 26 – Sun 29 October 2023 at the Banshee Labyrinth, 29-35 Niddry St, Edinburgh EH1 1LG.
NB: The Banshee Labyrinth is a licensed premises and all events are over 18s only.
The productions all come with a variety of content warnings and are not for the faint-hearted.

Chamber Room

I See Red
5.20 – 6.10pm.
In a secret place, there exists Wendy. Restless and with no grand objective, she dances in fear. The colour red haunts her, obfuscating her reality in a sad shade of pink. A macabre perception of femininity composed by the troubled imagination of its director, who has moulded his transgender experience into a semi-autobiographical absurdist horror, which dissects his experience of gender – both physically and mentally. Tickets: £5: Book here.

Sycamore Grove
At the world’s weirdest dinner party, Ben and Hannah discover magic rituals to rewrite reality and manifest the life they always wanted. But is it the magic or their new-found self-belief that’s getting them so far? And what will their new lifestyle cost? Because everything comes at a cost… Sycamore Grove is a tight suburban horror about what goes on behind closed doors and getting the life you always wanted. Tickets: £5 – £8: Book here.

The Shadow in the Dark
Edith Nesbit, creator of “The Railway Children” and “Five Children and It”, invites you into her parlour, as she recounts some of her unsettling horror stories which have long been overlooked in favour of her male contemporaries. Featuring an all female cast, and including magic lanterns, eerie soundscapes, and stylised presentations popular at the time of her writings, this show presents an adaptation of The Shadow, a ghost story of lost love and longing, and In the Dark, a terrifying paranoid confession of a (accidental?) murderer, along with real-life terrors from Nesbit’s life. Tickets: Pay what you can: Book here.

8.55-9.55pm: Dr. Bonk’s Macarbaret (Details here).

Cinema Room

Tarmac Lullaby
Who’s that waving at you from the other corner of the parking lot? Isn’t it Isla from Merryburn? It’s been years since you worked together at that school. Remember the sweet stories she used to tell the kids? But the tales she shares with you now are different: blood-weeping daughters, tech-shackled crones, women kept hostage by the granite grey walls of their high-rise flats… Where are all these stories coming from, Isla? And who are they about? Tickets: Pay What You Can : Book here.

The Devil in the Belfry
Handel Fledermaus has travelled from the distant and idyllic town of Vondorvotteimittiss, where the cabbage is king and time is sacred. A supernatural invader has plunged his once idyllic home into chaos, and he seeks the help of anyone who would believe his tale. But with a giant clock, a flying fiddler and a horde of ravenous pigs, it’s a very tall tale indeed. Edgar Allan Poe’s satirical short grows arms, legs and teeth in a fantastical and frantic monologue by Dave Robb, directed by Flavia D’Avila. Tickets: Pay What You Can: Book here.

Shows playing Tuesday 31 October 2023 in the Banshee Labyrinth

Chamber Room

The Dream Extortionist: A Collection of Nightmares
5.45 – 6.30pm.
Multi-disciplinary artist Ashleen Lewis and contemporary performance maker Ellie Higgins come together to showcase a beautifully crafted evening of terror. Combining spoken word, visual art and movement, this immersive performance will haunt your sleep eternally. Tickets: Pay What You Can: Book here.

Survivors of the Zombie Apocalypse
6.55 – 7.45pm
So you’ve survived the zombie apocalypse – what’s next? Come and heal with your fellow survivors at a support group like no other. Get ready for scares and laughs as Babs, your support group leader, takes you through a chaotic mix of survival techniques, catastrophe confessions and health & safety procedures… Tickets: £5 – £10. Book here.

I Was a Teenage Bisexual
8 – 8.45pm.
A teen horror B-movie for the stage, this is an award-nominated monster mash of theatre and spoken word. Junior just wants to be an ordinary guy. But it feels like everyone knows he isn’t. Bullies pick him apart at school, while his dad wants him to be manlier. Aside from his body-image issues, he also wrestles with dreams and desires he can’t tell anyone about. Just when he thinks things couldn’t get worse for him, bodies start turning up, and suspicion falls on folkloric beings. Beings who sound very similar to him… Tickets: £6 – £8: Book here.

Cinema Room

Frighthouse Presents: The Game of Misfortune Live Podcast
7.30 – 8.30pm
Following the Success of our 4 star fringe show. “the Wheel of Misfortune” comes an audio feast full of Frights and Funnies quirky Darkly comic tales performed as an audio play. This is a Horror Comedy Anthology presented by a manic Gamesmaster. Tickets £5: Book here.

Dark Dreams
8.45 – 9.40pm
Strange images flicker on the screen. A voice whispers nightmarish imaginings in the corner. Here in the dark, let the dreams of a fevered mind wash over you. On Halloween night, visions from the depths of the psyche come to life. Ready your mind for what terrors await. Tickets: £10 – £12: Book here.

You Are A Monster
Have you heard the phrase ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’? That’s what Halloween is all about, isn’t it? There’s a little bit of a monster inside all of us, so come and explore which kind you are! Combines storytelling, puppeteering and audience participation to introduce some terrifying beasts and entities from mythology and pop culture. Dare you look through the eyes of the creatures you fear? Tonight, you are the monster! Tickets: Pay What You Can: Book here.


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