As I walked towards the Loft Theatre, I noted the ‘beware’ sign that warned pregnant women, epilepsy sufferers and those with a faint heart that this may not be their scene. But I carried on anyway. The Loft Theatre is the perfect setting for Lurking in the Loft, not only because the play’s characters arise from its surroundings, but because of the innovative use of space to create a truly haunting experience at an appropriate time of the year. The play is based around the Leamington Lurker, a mysterious character who steals girls for his personal ploys.

Put simply, the play is a haunted tour of the Loft Theatre; yet to put it this simply is almost an insult to the thought and planning put into every directorial and theatrical choice. Both sound and lighting steadily built the tension throughout the thirty-minute piece until its audience was immersed in terror. With strobe lighting, sound bites of whispers and news reports of the Leamington Lurker, and the actors’ screams and stories, Lurking in the Loft was both an unexpected and exhilarating experience.

The innovation in use of space created a truly haunting experience at an appropriate time of the year

The play began in the lobby of the Loft Theatre; we were then taken through seemingly countless doors and curtains, behind each of which was a different theme and story to be told. The cast took up their specific roles and each time created a dynamic and unpredictable piece. The only certainty was the fear that troubled us as we continued through the theatre. Each scene presented us with an actor different from the last, and as we learned their stories, cleverly intertwined with sound and lighting, we became more immersed in a fable created in the foundations of the building itself.

The particularities of each actor fashioned an eerie atmosphere that wasn’t simply based on jump-scares and cheap thrills (though, of course, these were positioned in segments of the play – perhaps for the enjoyment of the actors and director alike). A particularly poignant moment was hearing of a mother who wanted to take a starring role at the expense of her daughter: stories like these elevated the play from a ‘haunted tour’ to something more emotional to counter the audience’s constant fear.

The only certainty was the fear that troubled us as we continued through the theatre

Perhaps the audience’s total absorption in the spectacle explains the almost anticlimactic nature of the play’s conclusion. The fear and tension that had been gathering concluded rather abruptly; it didn’t feel like a natural finish to the artistry that had come before. But the limitations of the piece arose from what made it unique, as the use of the theatre meant the piece had come full circle and the end would be in its own beginnings. Though this meant an abrupt conclusion that left the audience in the theatre bar, it also conveyed how space and setting could be used to enrich performance, away from the stage and auditorium that is usually expected of the theatre.

Lurking in the Loft may seem like a simple and fun way to spend half an hour, and though it is that, it also gives deeper insights into the power and dynamics of theatre as a physical space. The detailed thought that went into sound, lighting and costume choices was triumphantly reflected back by the screams and cries from the audience. It was a truly terrifying tour – but for those with a fainter heart, it may not be for you.


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