Suspiria is outrageously dramatic and unapologetic for the fact. Hannah Kessler, who has adapted and directed this show, describes it as “Enid Blyton meets Saw.” An intriguing premise. I was lucky enough to catch a complete run through in rehearsals and, from what I saw, this show will be a breath of fresh air for the Oxford drama scene. Suspiria is a production that doesn’t take itself too seriously and promises to be an amusing spectacle for audiences.
Adapted from a classic, Italian horror film, Suspiria centres around a young ballet dancer named Suzy Bannion, who arrives at her new ballet school in the midst of a disturbing murder case. Tension is built from the very beginning with the mysterious and harrowing soundtrack that accompanies the opening dance piece. Suzy soon discovers that there is something very dark and strange going on around her and the play subsequently descends into gory horror. Many of the scenes are incredibly dramatic, some even have me squirming in my seat, but every scene is one that I cannot take my eyes off.
Susperia is a production that doesn’t take itself too seriously and promises to be an amusing spectacle for audiences.
The acting in Suspiria is very over the top but this is a clear stylistic decision and I think there will be some brilliant performances. Jessie See did a wonderful job as Sara, a character of an extremely nervous disposition as a result of her suspicions about what is going on in the ballet school. I must also mention Anusia Battersby and Tania Shew, who play Miss Tanner and Madame Blanc, both are teachers at the Ballet school, one is terrifying and stern, the other seems a little friendlier, but both have a curiously menacing presence on stage. There were a couple of cast members who were a little stilted in their dialogue delivery and could improve on their physicality, but perhaps this was as a result of a Sunday morning rehearsal rather than their abilities.
Talking to the director, I can tell that a great deal of thought has been put into this production and the best ways of conveying the horror that is so central to the film. Lots of fake blood will be involved but a variety of other techniques will also be employed in order to truly terrify the audience. Kessler tells me of some gruesome surprises that will be in store for the audience but you’ll have to go see the show to discover exactly what these are.
As someone who would categorise herself as a first class wimp, I had been sceptical about a play adapted from a horror film, and yet following this preview I was left wanting to watch it all over again. Suspiria may not be a play to everybody’s taste, particularly those who are faint hearted, but I enjoyed the preview immensely. In the rehearsal room it was truly enthralling and I can only imagine how much more tense, terrifying and exciting it will be when the acting is complimented by proper sound and lighting. I would highly recommend Suspiria to anyone who wants to be thoroughly entertained by something that is a little bit unusual.
Suspiria is on this week in the Pilch Studio from Wednesday to Saturday.