REVIEW: Master Of The Macabre (The Vaults, Waterloo)

Master of the Macabre at the Vaults, Waterloo. Photo credit Jack Sain 2015 (3)Well… as the saying goes: “From the sublime to the ridiculous”. After witnessing a charming revival of a neglected musical at the Landor last night, I had the unfortunate experience of sitting through one of the silliest and, quite frankly, insulting evenings of “magic theatre” I have ever endured. The only thing that was remotely “macabre” about Master of the Macabre was my mood as I was left to ponder the future of populist theatre and the only thing “terrifying” was that there would actually be general public paying hard earned cash to see this diatribe. Not even the hairy arachnid can save this poorly executed waste of an evening.

Master of the Macabre is the “dark autobiographical journey” of Benedict Barber (a pseudonym, apparently) as he discovers magic at the age of five and uses it through to adulthood to pull tricks on people – specifically to woo the affections of schoolgirls. There is also a dead twin brother mixed into the equation too. This thin plot that runs throughout the show is so weak that when it hits the “climax” (which blind Freddie could see coming), you can’t help but laugh at the absurd pantomime playing out before you, though I doubt laughter is the reaction they’re going for. Interjected into this are some magic tricks, but nothing we haven’t seen before, and certainly nothing bloodcurdling or faint-worthy. The only real terror of the evening was trying to avoid Barber’s gaze in hopes he wouldn’t get you to participate in his farce!

Barber’s over-rehearsed delivery of the dreadful text isn’t remotely charming, haunting, suspenseful or realistic, and his halting voice remains at one pitch for the entirety of the show. His false heightening quickly became annoying; repeatedly telling us how scary and shocking we should find the show yet it failed to deliver – every… single… time… The fake walkout as the catalyst for the interval is cringe-worthy, his use of “plants” in the audience is as transparent as the glass of the walls of the Shard, and those poor “stage managers” who have to explain to us what’s going on… Oh dear… Panto City! And yes… “he’s behind you!”

Master of the Mediocre (a far more accurate title) massively underestimates and insults it’s audience’s intelligence and will really only entertain those whose IQ’s are below the ticket price. Hopefully in future, Barber and his creative team will avoid the theatre and stick to what they know – magic.

To quote the media release; “This fully immersive theatrical experience will leave you wide-eyed with astonishment and bring you to the edge of your seat with fear. If you’re prepared to have your prejudices challenged, your assumptions questioned, your beliefs shaken and your nerves shredded then this is the show for you.” And yes, it certainly delivered… for completely the opposite reasons.

The one star rating is for that poor, wretched spider.

Reviewed by Richard Kindermann
Photo: Jack Sain

Master Of The Macabre is playing at The Vaults, Waterloo until 1 November 2015. Click here for tickets