Old Red Lion Theatre, London – until 26 October 2019
In 1415 The Old Red Lion Pub opened, 604 years on a pub remains on the site with over six centuries of history, famous faces and surely some ghosts. The Knock Knock Club (Reece Connolly, Christopher Keegan, Caroline Buckley) investigate the venue and present their findings in Last Orders, as part of the London Horror Festival.
The Knock Knock Club comprises of a true believer (Connolly), a true sceptic (Keegan) and Caroline, who is open minded about the paranormal. They enlist the assistance of Twilight Ghost Hunts to spend the night in the pub and what they find is genuinely quite terrifying. They use modern recording equipment but they also take quite Victorian approaches; seances with ouija boards for example along with planchettes and automatic writing.
The most damning evidence of paranormal activity comes from ORL staff, past and present. The constant and inconvenient unplugging of theatre equipment, the noise of balls rolling across the ceiling, chairs and glasses flying across the pub, a usually calm Boxer (Rollo, the Old Red Lion’s resident dog features and he is my favourite thing about all theatre) barking into the distance and other examples that make a lovely night out at the theatre feel really uncomfortable.
The Knock Knock Club provides an engaging tale of their overnight stay and the sceptic in me, perhaps influenced by Ghost Stories, did wonder if staying up after a full day of work in darkness was going to lead to ghostly hallucinations however I also believe that paranormal is a possibility and not everything can be explained with logic. A pub as old as the Old Red Lion is dripping in history with morgues once on site, a high turnover of alcoholic, Irish barmaids with men like Josef Stalin, Lenin and Orwell passing through the doors and performers like Mischief Theatre and Kathy Burke on its stage.
Connolly in particular is a strong performer, unashamed in his belief his introductory story really set the scene. Ultimately this isn’t a show that wanted to scare its audience; it wanted to make you think and makes the spirits the star of the show (there is a great moment where it is clear the spirit is prankster) I also enjoyed Keegan and Buckley, particularly their own journey from sceptics/open minded to believing more and more. There is chemistry between the three that makes this relationship believable and contains plenty of laughs which breaks up the tension. It is a convincing case, particularly from Damien the landlord who has resigned himself to odd, unexplainable events. If you still find yourself unconvinced then it is a fun night out.
Last Orders is on until 26 October https://www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/last-orders.html as part of the London Horror Festival