With the 13th Hour Horror Festival risen and terrorizing the Lecister Square Theatre as we speak we got a chance to talk to the man responsible for one of the most spooktecular shows on the stage Colin Hoult who told us all about The Real Horror Show, real horror and Being Human.
How did you get into writing and acting?
Colin Hoult: I think I first got the love of horror as well as crafting stories and pretending / dicking about when me and my best friends started a ghostbusters gang and spent long afternoons crafting elaborate stories around how a discarded crisp packet or a disused empty coke can was somehow a sign of demonic terror about to be unleashed in the streets of Nottingham.
You have worked on radio, TV, live theatre and comedy,what are the differences between acting and writing for each and which do you enjoy the most?
Colin Hoult: I like doing all those things they all have pros and cons. Radio you can craft entire worlds with fx but can’t do a visual gag, and TV is all about trickery and timing. Comedy you’re constantly under pressure to entertain a crowd and connect with them and theatre you can let things just happen but then can’t really tell if people are into it or not in the moment. I’ve been lucky to get to try out all these different media and I never want to settle on just one I think.
Your first solo show was titled Carnival of Monsters and was partly inspired by your love of Frankenstein, have you always loved horror and what got you into it?
Colin Hoult: My family were basically the Munsters. I grew up surrounded by it. My Mum and my brothers read Stephen King and James Herbert, I use to watch Hammer with my Dad and Universal with my Uncle Keith. To me Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolfman are like old pals. Sort of. Originally I was going to make Carnival of Monster literally about the Universal Horror characters and wear various rubber masks throughout the show but thankfully I was talked out of it as it would have been hellishly hot and probably a bit shit.
How did Real Horror Show come about and how did you get involved with the 13th Hour Horror Festival?
Colin Hoult: I always wanted to do a horror show, also I wanted to work with a huge amount of comedians and actors I admired. My previous shows had been solo shows (with some excellent on stage support from Dan Snelgrove, Zoe Gardner and Steve Evans) and I thought it would be fun to do a full on ensemble piece. My wife, Kat, directs the horror shows and of course runs the 13th Hour Festival so it was all ready to go really once I’d written the bloody thing. We’d also spent a lot of the last year watching old port manteau horror films and were desperate to do one.
The show is called Real Horror Show, so how horrible is it really?
Colin Hoult: Its actually really really horrible. To the point where I’m a little nervous its just too horrible. There is some gore but the real horror comes from the set up and situation. The whole concept was to make something that was never overtly supernatural to try and set it apart from Ghost Stories and Woman in Black. So it’s very much about the hideous things people do to each other. Whenever I was worried if something was too horrible I just thought this is for the horror fans and they’ve seen some nasty shit recently so we can’t get cold feet.
Horror and comedy go so well together, what where some of your influences and inspirations in making this show?
Colin Hoult: Inspiration has come from all over. Some reading I did about Broadmoor patients in Victorian times comes into it, a lot of stuff that’s been in the news lately, as well as more fantastical things like Arkham Asylum from Batman and the creatures from Pan’s Labyrinth. Influence wise I’d say definitely the League of Gentlemen, also all the old Hammers, things like Hostel, also more farcical plays and believe or not, west end musicals play a part at the end.
In the description of Real Horror Show it says “Fans of ‘portmanteu’ or ‘Hammer’ horror films will love it! Fans of modern shock gore fest Hostel type films will love it! Fans of character comedy will love it! Scaredy cats will proper hate it”, what can audiences expect apart from damp trousers from laughing and screaming?
Colin Hoult: It a full on immersive experience and a theatrical show. So its not a thing where you have to run around getting chased but you will find yourself involved in the action if not actually pulled onto stage or anything. The plays themselves are hopefully thought provoking, funny and sad. So its a real constant on your toes experience, wondering where the next thing is coming from or how a story is going to twist and develop. Even though there are some proper sick bastards in the show, there’s a degree of sympathy for (almost) all of them. So I hope it will really mess with people’s heads both conceptually and in terms of just being proper terrified.
I also read that all the plays have a strong social commentary to them can you expand on this further at all without giving anything away?
Colin Hoult: They all have a connection to something that is happening or has happened in the real world. None of the characters are meant to be out and out parodies or satires but they have influences from real people and events. It isn’t supposed to be a serious lesson expounding my views on everyone its more just an exploration of the complexities of difficult / horror situations. For example there’s one long scene set in a job centre, where people on benefits have been locked in over night in the dark while they waited to see if their benefits would be cut. And they gradually realise there may be someone dangerous in there with them and perhaps the whole thing is a government scheme to get rid of them.
This came from people close to me going through real problems where benefits were concerned and also obviously relates to the austerity cuts being made at the moment. Its also that odd thing that seems to happen with governments like ours where the people being screwed over the most still show a blind faith that their leaders know what they are doing and have their best interests at heart. But basically it all comes from the characters and their experiences rather than from political theory or critique which I frankly don’t know enough about.
Colin Hoult: Actually a big problem I come up against is not giving myself the best lines. Basically I want the show to be as good as it can be and sometimes that means me playing a lesser but more specific part. Obviously I’d like to cast myself as Batman (he’s not in the show by the way) but probably someone would be better than me. But at the same time I have to think about how I want to appear as an actor and how this can help profile and all these things so I have to make sure I give myself the part that suits me the most. I think its a common danger when you write something to make yourself the straight man. Once you cast someone brilliant you just want to write the best lines for them. But I think i’ve managed to balance it here. I play a different part in each story but everyone else just has the one role. So I’m all over it!
You have a fantastic cast featuring the cream of recent sketch shows and character starlets can you tell us more about whose involved?
Colin Hoult: It was a real dream getting all these people together. We have Anna Crilly who is part of amazing double act Anna and Katy (about to get a series on Channel 4). We have ALL the Penny Dreadfuls, a brilliant sketch who performed several sell out shows at the Edinburgh Festival together and have since done their own award winning shows, we have my old double act partner and Hackney Award Winner, Fergus Craig. As well as loads of award winning actors and comedians off telly and stage ; Tom Palmer, Toby Williams, Mike Wozniak, Sarah Daykin, Will Andrews and hit musical double act Frisky and Mannish!
What’s your favorite horror film and why?
Colin Hoult: Has to be the Shining. I love a huge amount of horror films but none, for me, has ever quite managed to turn such real compassion for characters and complex themes into something so incredibly terrifying. The scariest moment for me of any film is when Danny turns the the corner on his trike and the girls are there waiting for him. Kubrick really turned proper horror into great art.
What’s next for you after Real Horror Show?
Colin Hoult: I’ve just wrapped on the new series of Being Human. I play a great character that I can’t talk about but its very much in line with the kind of stuff I do in my shows. That’ll be out in the new year. Plus I’ve a series commisioned for Radio 4 of Carnival of Monsters which will be out in March. Then hopefully we’ll do a new version of Real Horror Show in the spring in a very different way. Its something we can change and adapt however we like so is always evolving.