A scary story needs the right setting but in the Cavern at the VAULT Festival, Something Awful doesn’t quite get it
“How scary can some shitty chatroom be?”
The Cavern is one of the more unforgiving spaces at the VAULT Festival and so directors need to take real care to ensure their pieces work in this long, dank hall. As a horror story, Something Awful has the additional pressure of cultivating an effectively eerie atmosphere in here and to be honest, it’s a bit too much of a challenge.
Tatty Hennessy’s play uses the 2014 Slenderman stabbing case – where two 12 year old girls stabbed their mutual friend in the name of the internet-created myth of the Slenderman – as its inspiration to explore a very similar incident. Along the way, it touches on the anxieties and complexities of teenage relationships, how friendship and bullying can co-exist, and the role the internet can play in shaping so much of this.
In this, Something Awful is most successful. The interplay between friends Soph and Jel and newcomer Ellie is compellingly drawn, as Ellie tells big and bold stories to establish her bad girl rep and they find their common ground in an online forum that shares urban horror stories. Hennessy skilfully shows us the ease with which they can break through parent-installed cyber security but also never lets us forget how young these girls are, no matter how grown-up they consider themselves.
But as the play hurriedly harkens back to the full extent of its Slender inspirations as its end approaches, the tonal shift is too awkwardly realised, all the nuance of character that has gone before forgotten in the rush to nail a dramatic finale. And though Lucy Jane Atkinson’s direction has the potential to chill the spine, overly fussy scene changes really sap the atmosphere of the kind of ominous dread that might have pulled it through.