Sunday, 19 October 2014


Derry-Londonderry's newest "nightmare" is a castle of confusion, chaos, creeps and creative characterisation. Inspired, in the words of creator Phil Ruddock, by "too many late night movies and a little communing with the dead", Chateau Le Fear gathers up a series of talented actors, artists and technicians for a genuinely mysterious and naturally frightening haunted house this Hallowe'en.

The setting is an old brick building in the corner of Ebrington. Screams can be heard even from outside the walls on this particular dark night: one half expects to hear thunder clap and see lightning flash directly above the musty house.

When one finally walks through the Chateau doors, they are in for a highly memorable interactive walk-through show. Webbing dangles from ceilings and blood drips down walls in a dark maze where numerous ghosts, ghouls and zombies eagerly await your company.

The sights and sounds here can reduce confident strides to tentative crawls in a matter of seconds: zombies who reach out but don’t quite touch your leg, deceptively innocuous girl ghouls, creepy hotel clerks and intestine eaters, to name but a handful. It's the sort of exhibition you really can't predict, and is cleverly structured so that horror film buffs – especially Romero and Hitchcock fans – can play along with the "undead". All that's missing are vampires.

Chateau Le Fear is essentially a House Of Cheap Thrills And Shocks, but never pretends to be anything else, and the results are gut-wrenchingly, grippingly gruesome, guaranteed to give you chills. And when one walks away from those musty old bricks towards a relatively safe, well-lit city, they can tell themselves "it’s only theatre". Or is it?

(The original version of this review appeared in the Belfast Telegraph on Wednesday October 15, 2014. It can be read here.)