Katie was busy, so Brittany brought a friend from the theatre world to a crazy, bloody, sexy, puppety show that sounds like a lot of fun. Here’s their report:
Katie is a bit of a buzz-kill when it comes to Halloween (sorry Katie). She hates dressing up, doesn’t like scary movies and gore makes her queasy. Brittany, on the other hand, has her requisite costume box in the closet and grew up on Tales From The Crypt. So when we got the press release about Thrillpeddlers Shocktoberfest 15: The Bloody Debutant and Katie was busy, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to call in our friend Michael St. Clair, a lecturer in the Theater and Performance Studies department at Stanford who’s been known to wear a costume even outside of Halloween reverie, to come along and review the show.
Brittany: So Michael, for your introductory Drama Talk & Drinks review, what did you think about the show?
Michael: It was brilliant. It was at least 50% more fun than I expected it to be.
B: That was, in my opinion, absolutely delightful.
M: If you don’t like comedy/sex/violence, or lots of gore, of fake blood, or demon summoning, or things flying in your face, it’s not the show for you. But if you like those things . . .
B: And like kinky fetish stuff . . .
M: Spiced up with a bucket of blood and terrible things . . .
B: SO MUCH BLOOD!
M: . . . Then you’ll love it.
B: I loved how excited everyone in the cast and audience were for the show.
M: Everyone was SO into it. An utter labor of love. The enthusiasm in the audience, cheering on characters to do wrong things, was contagious.
B: It felt like a rawer more spontaneous version of Rocky Horror Picture Show.
M: Yeah, it’s that kind of group burlesque experience and shock-show, except considerably more burlesque and shocking. It was also legitimately funny. It’s not intended to be “good” in the traditional sense, it’s not a brilliant narrative. The whole show was done in a sort of melodrama register.
B: Which is why I love campy stuff. You can have these larger than life characters, these extravagant plots, and predictable but outrageous scenes, and you just commit to the fact that it’s over-the-top and have fun with the ridiculousness. Sort of like a Tarantino.
M: We were talking earlier about its connection to haunted houses and horror culture in general. And a lot of haunted houses, at least the type we grew up with, have that connection to geek convention culture, or Punk music, or 80s shock films like Troma, but this show was different. This had an explicit connection to Grand Guignol, and you could see lots of elements borrowed from burlesque, fetish culture, old Italian horror films, old-Hollywood thrillers.
B: Yeah, even though it was very graphically and sexually violent, it felt oddly traditional.
M: A lot of the interesting staging and visual techniques they used were also in the vein of devices used by traditional San Francisco experimental theater. People singing in big culty groups, puppets flying, audience participation.
B: This might sound cliche, but this show felt very San Francisco. From the drag, to the comfort level with nudity . . .
M: Yeah, weird religion, gender-play, kink . . .
B: Exactly, and all of that was presented nonchalantly. Then they threw a BIG bucket of blood on top, and it was great!
Verdict: Forget the schloky haunted house! Thrillpeddlers Shocktoberfest 15: The Bloody Debutant is what you should be spending your Halloween scrilla on this year. Unless you were planning on going to Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin Patch hay maze. In which case HAVE FUN, this show is not for you. It’s definitely for mature audiences. There’s nudity, lots of gore and very sexually explicit content. That said, we loved it, and if you’re okay with campy kinky gore you will have an awesome time too.
The Drama Talk: It’s rare to see a show where you can tell the audience and the actors are all really invested in having a fun, this is one of those times. Staying true to it’s Grand Guignol roots Thrillpeddlers hold nothing back. They go all in for shocking narratives that could make some faint. Make sure you take your turn at getting guillotined during intermission, it’s surprisingly scary and fun. Also look forward to the final scene performed entirely in the dark. It’s disorientingly beautiful.
The Drinks: We started the evening off at SOMA StrEat food, a great place to grab before show dinner and drinks. After the show we thought about heading over to DNA Lounge for Bootie SF, but decided to avoid the crowds and cross under the freeway to Il Pirata for cheaper drinks and a bar where we could actually talk. We both got a shot of Bulleit and a pint of Lagunitas, and toasted to a successful night of Drama Talk & Drinks.
Thrillpeddlers Shocktoberfest 15: The Bloody Debutant runs through November 22nd at the Hypnodrome in San Francisco on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00pm. Tickets are available for $30-$35 on Brown Paper Tickets. There were also briefly discounted tickets available on GoldStar for previews. Those have all sold out for now, but it may be worth checking back to see if more become available later in the run.