Friday, March 1

Tales from the Tombstone Tavern: Vlad – Ameena Hamid Productions Ltd

The penultimate episode of Tales from the Tombstone Tavern, the new six part podcast series written by Delmar Terblanche and directed by Jamie Boucher, takes a terrifying turn into the dark and murky world of the occult with a disturbing tale narrated by Vlad Dracul (Joshua Manning).

This episode opens with our monsters discussing zombies and their place in the horror genre. While Wolfgang (Percival Fagent) and Vlad maintain that they aren’t scary anymore, unless they are given a gimmick, Adam (Delmar Terblanche) wonders if they have a place, otherwise why would people keep coming back to them when creating new stories?

Vlad answers this question by outlining his theory that horror reflects our own anxieties and zombies are scary because they represent the worst fear of all: the loss of humanity itself. However, it is important to consider what comes before fear, Vlad continues, before ghosts, before vampires, before any of our monsters, comes the key to everything: belief. Belief in dark forces, in the occult, is at the core of all horror, and Vlad will prove it by telling what he declares will be the best story of them all.

Vlad’s story opens with classic haunting organ music before we meet the two women who form the centre of the tale, the calm and collected Jessica (Sena Bryer) and the stressed and anxious Suzy (Anna Chedham-Cooper). The two have a discussion over tea about Suzy’s talented twins, Harvey and Linda, who have recently started training at Marco’s Dance Academy.

Suzy is worried about what they are learning at the Academy and its effect on the twins’ behaviour. Jessica, the voice of reason, calmly tries to reassure Suzy and proposes practical solutions, while she remains blissfully unaware of what her own child, Sam, is doing with Suzy’s twins outside.

Persistent tapping noises and drumbeats throughout the piece create a sense of anxiety from the offset. Stereotypical settings, such as old, abandoned Gothic manors, are paired with careful and clever use of language to create multi-layered meanings and provoke thought. Chedham-Cooper’s performance is excellent and beautifully clashes with Bryer’s dulcet tones, which together with the excellent sound effects create an extremely creepy story.

This is a very dark piece, which echoes back to earlier episodes and within itself to create something wonderfully terrifying. By the end we have no idea what will happen to our friends sitting around their table in the Tombstone Tavern, and whilst the easiest thing to do is sit back, relax and let the forces of darkness take over, the final episode due to be broadcast on this year’s unique Halloween, is bound to teach us a lesson or two about complacency.

The final episode of Tales from the Tombstone will be released every at 12pm on Saturday 31st October. All episodes to date are available wherever you listen to podcasts.

Reviewer: Donna M Day

Reviewed: 29th October 2020

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★