Red Death by Launch Pad Theatre at Craigdarroch Castle October 17-31, 2017. A review.

Red Death by Launch Pad Theatre at Craigdarroch Castle October 17-31, 2017. A review.

Those cool cats at The Castle are hiding a grim secret. Try as they might to pretend everything is “groovy”, all is not well. Doom hangs in the air and seeps into nooks and crevices.

Diana Nielsen and Christina Patterson. Photo: Derek Ford

The wild and hyper lord of the manor, David Radford glad hands invited guests. Disco tunes fill the air with familiar refrains. Two gorgeous dames—Christina Patterson and Diana Nielsen—slink about in form-fitting gowns and beautifully draped coats. Costume designer Martha Burd embodies the 1970s disco era perfectly with Prospero’s gorgeous damask long vest, and includes signature flare trousers and open neck shirts for the male devotés Jared Gowen and Trevor Hinton.  Despite all this untoward friendliness, a sense of unease and foreboding inhabits, almost immediately, those congregated within.

Enjoined to leave the comfort of the great hall to venture onto the balcony, despite the ladies’ misgivings, the crowd soon learns the reality of the situation.

A mysterious Red Death has descended upon the land. The Castle, high on a hill, is safe for now—providing a perfect haven, with its three stories and bell tower, for an evening of debauchery and storytelling. Reluctantly playing along, and worried about disturbing the volatile drug-addled host, the guests are divided into groups and ushered into various rooms of the castle.

Radford has successfully rewritten some of Edgar Allan Poe’s most haunting and creepy stories—House of Usher, Cask of Amontillado, Pit & the Pendulum, Ligiea, Berenice, Telltale Heart, Tarr & Fether, The Black Cat—for a modern audience.

Tours are determined by a key chosen at the entrance. On the Blue Tour, Diana Nielsen is, at first, haughty and assured, descending quickly into flightiness and fear as she recounts, in confessional style, House of Usher.  Blue lighting (lighting and sound design—Karen Stack) emits a cool glare in the otherwise cozy library, casting a definite chill on the proceedings.  Nielsen navigates the difficult terrain of horror and madness with assuredness—making the horror all the more real.

For the second story, in the College Room, a jaunty Christina Patterson becomes a much-prized courtesan in the home of the three wealthy Montresor brothers. Importuned by a slimy Fortunato, she vows revenge. Patterson slides easily into drunkenness as Fortunato, promised a taste of famed Montillado, more than willing to follow the lady down damp hallways in the cellar of the castle.  The smile on her face at the end is diabolical.

Finally, a wiry and tense ex-Vietnam soldier, Trevor Hinton, recounts his torture at the hands of the enemy in Pit & The Pendulum. Deep in a dark room, he comes face to face with his inevitable demise, the victim of a rather ingenious device.  Hinton is frightening is his intensity as he wriggles and struggles—will he escape?

Assembled around the central staircase, guests line the steps as the castle denizens intone the most famous of all Poe’s poems—The Raven—surrounded by swirling lights and the kaleidoscope colours of  the glitter ball.  While the effect should be reminiscent of happier days, the opposite is true.  Everyone waits for the other shoe to drop.

Launch Pad Theatre co-founders Radford and Patterson are long-time collaborators of Ian Case, whose Giggling Iguana Productions pioneered “The Castle shows”—they are adept writers and directors with a clear vision for melding material and location.  As dark nights descend, amid pelting rain and stormy winds, the Castle harbours ghosts and troubled souls.  Beware–those who are brave enough to enter within.

Wildly popular, and usually sold-out, there are a few remaining tickets for this run of Red Death which continues to October 31st.  Best bets are October 18th and 19th.

It’s the end of the world and the last days of disco!

The gothic and the groovy will jibe with this dramatic new staging of some of the most unsettling stories of Edgar Allan Poe, set in a 1970’s milieu.

Playing with apocalyptic themes such as viruses and zombie-like epidemics ?in which the civilized world is brought to its knees by a global infestation, Launch Pad brings you a mash up of the stories of gothic horror master Edgar Allan Poe and the narcotic fume of 1970’s disco culture.

Audiences are invited to come dressed in their clingiest, shiniest, disco attire* and take refuge inside the protective walls of Craigdarroch Castle, away from the terrible blood-plague known as RED DEATH.

Once inside the Castle, and surrounded by the psychedelic soul sounds of the seventies, the audience is separated into different and disturbing tours of depravity through strangely lit rooms and even stranger confession of sin, cruelty, terror, and murder, all adapted from Poe’s many chilling stories.

RED DEATH is a bubblegum-pop horror guaranteed to scare the funk out of you.

*Not recommended for children under the age of 18
*Please note, the Castle boasts a beautiful oak staircase containing 87 stairs to the 4th floor ballroom with no elevator or ramps.

RED DEATH – A Horror Play About Stayin’ Alive
October 17th – 31st
TICKETS: or 250-592-5323
*Costumes not mandatory
Show times:
October 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26, 30, 31 at 8:00pm
October 20, 21, 27, 28 at 7:00pm and 9:00pm

David Radford (Performer, writer, Edgar Allan Poe story adaptation, director)
Christina Patterson (Performer, Director, Producer)
Jared Gowen
Trevor Hinton
Diana Nielsen
Karen Stack (Lighting and sound design, stage manager)
Martha Burd (Costume Designer)

Further Reading:

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ticket to attend the preview of Red Death.

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