Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Review: 'Edred, the Vampyre' at The Old Red Lion, 29th October 2019

Reviewed by David James
Rating: 3 Stars

There are skulls on sale in the supermarkets, bats hanging from the lamp-posts and jack o' lanterns perched on every doorstep. 'Tis the season for spookiness and I am loving it. Things have been especially fun this year at the London Horror Festival, which has served up frightful delights of all varieties, with Edred, the Vampyre capping things off.

Written by David Pinner, the play tells the story of the titular Edred (Martin Prest), a thousand-year-old vampyre (I feel the spelling is important). Over the course of his long immortality, he's ridden with Genghis Khan, walked the plague-ridden streets of London, fought at the Battle of Hastings and shagged Shakespeare. Now he is in something of a rut, apparently spending his time hanging out at an isolated church in a London suburb.

But tonight he'll have a little more fun than usual. Two teenagers, Jacques and Elizabeth (James Hoyles and Zari Lewis) have heard the rumours of a supernatural presence and decided to investigate. Now they are both in the vampyre's lair, though it seems Edred is happy to hold off his thirst for blood in favour of toying with the pair.

Vampyres (and indeed, vampires) come in a dizzying variety of forms these days, running the gamut from glittering heartthrobs to bestial monstrosities and everything in between. But Edred is a consciously traditional type of vampyre and plays it old school. He's dressed in a black cape, high-collared dress shirt, waistcoat and cravat - looking like h he got his outfit from a fancy dress shop.

Despite looking like the vampire emoji (🧛‍♂️)  come to un-life, he doesn't entirely live up the myth. His fangs are retractable, he quite likes the taste of garlic, doesn't mind sunlight and can quite happily reside in a church without being repulsed by divinity. And if you slam a stake through his heart you'll just annoy him - a very bad idea.

All of which makes him an entertaining presence to spend an hour with. The weary immortal describing his long journey to the present is a well-worn groove for this genre, but there's some neat historical trivia here and Prest performs it well. I particularly liked that Edred turned out to the 'Highgate Vampire' of the early 70s, which has long been one of my favourite London supernatural happenings.

But while Edred - the star attraction - works beautifully, the overarching plot involving Jacques and Elizabeth is a bit wobbly. It turns out that the pair are drawn to Edred for a reason, the nightmares that haunt them aren't random, and there are dark revelations in store. Said revelations are a bit confusingly explained, jumping into some metaphysical afterlife philosophising that I didn't grasp.

Plus, while Elizabeth is a fun character, Jacques is very one-dimensional. Practically every line he delivers contains the words "fuck", "shit" or "crap" - and while I don't have a problem with swearing this quickly becomes repetitive. James Hoyles doesn't have a great deal to work with, but his character is stuck in a single emotional gear for long swathes of the play and the character begins to grate.

I don't want to be overly negative though: if you're in the Halloween mood this is the ideal play. Edred is a well-sketched out and compelling horror creation and I could have spent much longer listening to his loquacious autobiography. I also have a lot of respect for the show not trying to reinvent the wheel: Pinner proves that the traditional gothic vampyre still has bite.

Edred, the Vampyre is at the Old Red Lion until 2nd November. Tickets here.

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