Vampire Hospital Waiting Room Review

Above the Arts Theatre 9 – 21 November.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

A brilliantly barmy B-Musical, Vampire Hospital Waiting Room is a riot from start to finish. As the hospital waiting room fills up, Dr Bloom is busy reading his books of arcane prophecies about the coming of the vampire lord. He has developed a theory that the NHS is a front for collecting blood to feed the UK’s vampires, and wants to become immortal himself. (It’s all explained much better in the opening songs.) An emergency patient is brought into the hospital, comatose after a car crash, and Dr Bloom is convinced that he is the vampire lord. Helped by the patient’s wife, who wants him declared dead to inherit his millions, Bloom tries to carry out the ceremony needed to arouse the vampire lord and become a vampire himself.

Joe McArdle plays Dr Bloom as a cross between Matt Berry and Vincent Price, and is hysterical. His grimaces and vocal tics are repeated for what should be far too long, but, just like in The Simpsons, the audience is howling with laughter throughout. The scene where he carries out his tests on Arty (Craig Methven) is insane. Methven does a great job trying to keep a blank face, but the coma patient got the giggles with the shenanigans going on around him. The conceit of the audience being able to hear Arty’s thoughts is cleverly done. A change of lighting, and up he jumps from his wheelchair to address us. His flops back into unconsciousness as the cast continue the story get funnier each time. I swear the man is made of elastic.

Abby Jackson’s sexy nurse – yes that is the character’s name – is cheerfully unhelpful to the patient’s, and her overdramatic gestures fit in nicely with her  amazing singing. She channels every X Factor wannabe who fits in 10 notes instead of 1 and manages to make Shirley Bassey’s arm gestures look subtle. Roz Ford, as Arty’s wife also gives a wonderfully over the top performance – the best evil laugh I’ve heard for a long time.  Arty’s secretary Liz (Imogen Brabant), who was in the car with him when it crashed, is played as almost sane. Brabant’s love songs with the comatose Arty are a hoot. in “Love is a car crash”, Brabant’s parts are a lovelorn ballad, while Arty sings an up tempo song, mostly about sex.

John Rushton’s priest is delightfully underplayed amongst the scenery chewing – his comments about his stab wounds, and his very English attitude to waiting in the queue and not making a fuss make sure that this quieter character is not overlooked. Martin MacLennan’s Scottish stranger gets weirder and scarier throughout the show. His comic timing makes the disturbingly odd lines even funnier.

The script is full of fantastic jokes, some corny, some filthy, and the cast deliver them brilliantly. The songs are just as funny, with some fantastic comments about the lyrics and over dramatic backing singers by the characters. Dr Bloom gets the best lines though – I will never be able to look at stethoscopes and latex gloves with a straight face again.

This is an unashamedly corny and cheesy show that celebrates the best and worst of horror films and musicals with great affection. It’s very rare to find yourself laughing all the way through a show, but you will here. A bonkers show with a stellar cast – perfect late night entertainment.