Edred, The Vampyre – Theatre Review

PLAYWRIGHT David Pinner has long held a fascination for the gothic. His novel, Ritual, formed the basis of 1973 horror film The Wicker Man.

His latest offering is Edred, The Vampyre, which recently received its world premiere at the Old Red Lion Theatre in London’s Islington – part of The London Horror Festival.

The play is less scary than The Wicker Man, but it demonstrates that at the youthful age of 79, Pinner has lost none of his liking for the macabre and quirky. And Edred, The Vampyre (written nine years ago) is certainly as quirky as horror plays come.

At the play’s heart is Edred (a delightful Martin Prest) who is as camp a vampire as you will ever wish to meet. Nails to die for and not your typical blood lusting vampire. More Kenneth Williams and Julian Clary than blood thirsty Christopher Lee.

Edred loves his garlic and sees sunshine as a tonic. In his long past, he’s slept with Shakespeare, played the first ever Macbeth (not Richard Burbage as claimed) and experienced personal loss as his brother was ‘butchered’ at the altar (946AD). He’s also spent time at Highgate cemetery and flown on Concorde.

Into his lair (church) are drawn Jacques (James Hoyles) and Elizabeth (Zari Lewis), two 19 year old gap year students from Ricky (Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire). While there is an immediate connection between Elizabeth and the vampire, Jacques is soon persona non grata.

Indeed, Jacques is belittled (for not getting to Cambridge University like Elizabeth) and believes Edred is making advances on his beloved. How very wrong he is – although Jacques is not quite the individual we are led to believe he is. As expected from a horror play, it all ends rather messily. Blood and all that – although we do learn why Edred has a thing for Elizabeth.

All rather fun. All rather clever, a history lesson in 75 minutes, and proof that Pinner has lost none of his flair for the macabre.

Directed by Anthony Shrubsall and produced by the talented Sarah Lawrie, Edred, The Vampyre is worth a butcher’s. Chuma Emembolu and Alys Whitehead also deserve mentions for their respective powerful set design and haunting monastic music.

Quite a night. Blood-curdling original theatre.

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