- David Kettle
- 10 August 2018
Classic horror given a contemporary update
Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group's nasty shocker is a cult institution in its native Los Angeles – and with the show's superb mix of slick technical polish and grimy, macabre subject matter, you can see why.
Yes, there are plenty of jump-scares to keep the adrenalin pumping. But Urban Death is so much more than that. It unfolds as a series of wordless, sometimes virtually actionless tableaux, occasionally just a few seconds long, offering peeks into bizarre, sinister worlds – from the downright bloody to the quietly menacing. There's over-the-top grand guignol, but there are contemporary, urban horrors too; the dead-eyed stares of damaged prostitutes, or a grinning father getting too familiar with his daughter.
Technically, the show is faultless: performers creep imperceptibly into their disjointed positions in the pitch black to shock when the lights go up, and the sometimes glimmering lighting ensures our imagination fills in the full horror of what is half glimpsed.
But despite its well-drilled professionalism, there's a raw, dirty edge to Urban Death and a gleeful desire to push the audience into uncomfortable territory that gets under the skin in a deeply unsettling way. This is a brave, sophisticated show – as darkly funny as it is creepily appalling.
Sweet Grassmarket, until 26 Aug (not 13, 14), 9.30pm, £8.50 (£6.50).