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Last Orders: the Haunting of the Old Red Lion, Old Red Lion Theatre – Review

Ever wondered why things go bump; swear you can hear the floorboards creaking, dull footsteps in the dead of night? No me neither! That probably means I don't believe in ghosts; and Last Orders: the haunting of the Old Red Lion has failed in its objective. But in all truth that isn't the case. It proves we divide into two camps where the spirit world is concerned. You either believe or you simply don't know. I'm one of the many 'don't knows'. Those who fall for it (and I use the term advisedly) have succumbed to the power of…

Summary

Rating

Good

A bright, intelligent and enjoyable piece of storytelling using the rich history of a great pub. A shame they never convinced me!

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Ever wondered why things go bump; swear you can hear the floorboards creaking, dull footsteps in the dead of night? No me neither! That probably means I don’t believe in ghosts; and Last Orders: the haunting of the Old Red Lion has failed in its objective. But in all truth that isn’t the case. It proves we divide into two camps where the spirit world is concerned. You either believe or you simply don’t know. I’m one of the many ‘don’t knows’. Those who fall for it (and I use the term advisedly) have succumbed to the power of suggestion over the power of reason. For me, logic defeats imagination every time. Why should the spirit of a long-departed soul be condemned to a twilight world? Is a violent end sufficient cause to haunt those who follow them? Of course Last Orders made me think; but I saw nothing to change what is still an open mind.

The Old Red Lion in Islington is the perfect venue; a pub has stood on this site for over 600 years. There are numerous tales of highwaymen, duels and deaths occurring in the vicinity. Rich pickings indeed for any ghost hunter, which is exactly where this production originated.

The Knock Knock Club, featuring Reece Connolly, Christopher Keegan and Caroline Buckley, together with a team of ghost hunters, spent the night in this wonderful pub, recording everything they saw and heard, just to test the legend. Could the Old Red really be haunted?

The show focuses on three elements of the building; cellar, bar and the upstairs theatre. Stories are gently weaved around characters who’ve visited the pub, incidents were said to have happened in the very room we were in. Clips of film were projected onto a single white sheet, pub staff; past and present were interviewed. They related paranormal experiences, remaining convinced the Old Red is most definitely haunted.

Last Orders is good story telling using the confined performance area to great effect. I’m always struck by the amazing atmosphere of the pub and this performance only reinforced the point. However there’s nothing startlingly original about it. All tried and trusted techniques are utilised; darkness and sound to heighten the tension, torches to light the face, engaging the audience with carefully measured dialogue. There’s nothing you haven’t seen on film or TV before. Ghosts are deeply ingrained on the psyche and form a significant part of our literary heritage. To believe in ghosts is a choice we make; because our sub-conscious tells us we might learn something from a greater power.

It’s fair to say I wasn’t converted, but thoroughly enjoyed a production full of energy and enthusiasm. All three players were excellent taking on the respective roles of believer, non-believer and sceptic. Great fun but you may get more out of this if you are a believer.

Researched, devised and performed by: Reece Connolly, Christopher Keegan and Caroline Buckley
Produced by: The Knock Knock Club
Box Office:  0333 012 4963
Booking Link: https://www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/last-orders.html
Booking Until: 26 October 2019

About Brian Penn

Brian Penn
Civil Servant. Brian flirted with drama at school but artistic differences forced a painful separation. At least he knows what his motivation is. Now occupying a safe position in the audience he enjoys all kinds of theatre. He was bitten by the theatrical bug after watching a production of Tommy in his teens. Other passions include films, TV and classic rhythm and blues. He also finds time for quizzes, football and squash. A keen sports fan, his enthusiasm crashes to a halt whenever anyone mentions golf. A musical based on the life of Tiger Woods could be his greatest challenge.