The Vaults, London – until 18 March 2018
Lock and Key is a new musical horror story which played at the Vaults Festival against the ominous rumbling of trains of Waterloo overhead.
In a tale that attempts to be a modern-day nightmare, Jess is ambitious junior working out her probationary period at a publishing company and keen to get on in a media career. She’s hardworking but also bullied and exploited, with the show’s action playing out as she’s working late, at 10pm, on her birthday. Her boss Samantha is a monstrous employer with no care whatsoever for Jess. There’s an office filing cabinet with a dark and grisly secret that Jess is expressly forbidden from opening. Oh, and there’s a talking teddy bear too.
If that all sounds rather corny, that’s because it is. Bella Barlow and AC Smith have created cardboard clichéd characters, in a musical that has quite possibly turned out to be more horrific than its creative team might ever have intended. Horror is a tricky genre which this blog has been keen to support over the years. Handled well, it can make us laugh, scream and be moved. Done badly, and it appears as little more than kids playing around with the dressing-up box, or to put it more succinctly, like the disgusting brown substance (draw your own conclusions) that Jess discovers in the filing cabinet drawer.
That being said Tiffany Graves as Samantha (Graves is also the bear’s puppeteer), together with Evelyn Hoskins’ Jess both deliver their usual level of excellence, with performances that are far finer than the script deserves. Likewise, Tamara Saringer puts in a strong shift, ably directing her four-piece band through a collection of forgettable melodies.
If a successful future is to be unlocked for Lock and Key then much work is needed on its book. The show is crying out for credible characters who engage in plausible human interaction, and horror that truly suspends our disbelief. And as for the final scene – it’s sensational, implausible and gratuitously violent. Like the contents of that mysterious filing cabinet, Lock and Key is a bloody mess.