Bristol Theatre Reviews

Review: Butchered by Expial Atrocious at The Loco Klub

Absurdist thriller Butchered, by theatre company Expial Atrocious, is a fabulous hour of dark escapist fun.

The high energy physical performance starts during the incoming, setting the audience on edge with repetitive butchery movement and rumbling sounds.

There can be few more perfect venues for this show than The Loco Klub, which serves to create an immersive feel in the belly of its gritty stone tunnels.

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Expial Atrocious have managed to create a unique and highly stylised piece of theatre. It’s extremely impressive and unlike anything else that’s hit Bristol in recent time.

Master Sausage spends all day every day making sausages. It’s gruesome, physical and violent butchery. Repetitive physical movement conveys the mundane and soul destroying work. The sequence carries on for slightly too long each time the theme is used. This emphasises the relentlessness over the passage of time.

The arrival of a bubbly new apprentice who loves to chit chat about everything and dreams of crafting, upsets the equilibrium. Master Sausage is not impressed.

Through spooky stories, physical performance and a knife game the equivalent of kids throwing pencils into classroom ceilings, the balance of power between the pair gradually shifts.

This ultimately leads to a suitably horrible and perfectly executed ending. Time is given for the full horror to play out, borrowing from ideas of movie monsters pottering about whilst their victim suffers – Insidious/Jeepers Creepers. The costume design of bland overalls and aprons adding to the – serial killer in the basement – effect.

The full horror is probably reserved for the continuation of the sausage making cycle. Even in absurdist horror, lowly workers are dispensable and replaceable.

The design of the show is excellent. It features the best theatrical sound design I’ve possibly ever heard outside of a musical production. This is thanks to a wonderful soundtrack and soundscape that continues throughout the performance.

Driving strings recurring as a musical motif combined with rumbling, tense and throbbing rhythms feels like Bernard Herrmann meets Joseph Bishara. A perfect marriage of thriller meeting horror. The Foley on top of meat being slapped about in a bowl is enough to make misaphonics squirm.

The lighting design is also exceptional, taking on a life of its own. Shadows lick across the wall like ghosts. Torchlight becomes the faceless employers upstairs addressing the panicked sausage makers from above. Off stage light becomes The Meat Grinder, a god like concept that has Master Sausage in its thrall.

Nic Lawton (The Apprentice) and Ez Holland (Master Sausage) are the co-artistic directors of Expial Atrocious, with technician Sophie Keeble.

Holland’s Master Sausage cuts a strong and imposing presence throughout, in a delicious performance that in places is strongly reminiscent of a young Ray Winstone.

Cheerful chatterbox Nic Lawton, does a delightful turn as The Apprentice becoming Master. Lawton is quite incredible in the uncomfortable aftermath of an attack. It’s proper horror stuff.

Together the pair create powerful performances going to depths you wouldn’t expect in a universe where anything might happen.

Expial Atrocious have created a proper gem with Butchered. A twisted little horror tale which thrills and delights

Butchered is at The Loco Klub again on Thursday 15 June 2023 before continuing on tour.

You can find more information and all booking links on the Expial Atrocious website:
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