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NTU Sustainability in Enterprise

Mayhem 2015: Day Three (Part Two)

19 October 15 words: Penny Reeve, Ash Carter
A live dramatic reading of an unfilmed Hammer Films screenplay set in India and cult classic Society made for a unique Saturday night
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Mayhem is a festival that likes to incorporate something a little bit different into its lineup. Whether it’s experiments by a mad scientist, a live score to a silent movie or as with this year, a dramatic reading of an unpublished Hammer script, they love to push the boundaries.

The Unquenchable Thirst of Dracula, which was written as a Hammer script by Anthony Hinds in 1970 and sadly shelved soon after due to financial restraints, was unearthed from De Montfort University’s Cinema and Television History (CATH) archive last year. Being the Hammer fans that they are, Mayhem directors Chris Cooke & Steven Sheil decided to adapt the screenplay for the stage and worked with some talented local actors to bring The Unquenchable Thirst of Dracula to (after)life on Saturday evening. The timing for the performance is especially poignant as the role of Dracula was pegged for Christopher Lee - who we sadly lost just a few months ago - as a continuation from his performance in Scars of Dracula.

Set in India, The Unquenchable Thirst of Dracula follows Penny (Lauren Carse), a young Englishwoman who has just arrived in the country in the hopes of finding her missing sister, Lucy (Sabrina Sandhu). As she travels to the town Lucy was last seen, Penny makes friends a pair of siblings, Lakshmi (also Sandhu) and Prem (Harpal Hayer) who are on their way to perform for the Maharajah (Jas Steven Singh) and also with a local man, Mukerjee (Shajait Khan), who takes her to stay at the house he shares with his wife (Sohm Kapila). Soon both parties realise that there's more going on in the town than meets the eye. On further investigation they soon discover that Dracula (a very creepy Jonny Phillips) has taken up residence in the Palace, tricking both the Maharajah and a dark cult into helping him feed his addiction to blood. As the cult is betrayed by Dracula and Penny and Prem get closer to hunting the Prince of Darkness down, an epic chase scene takes place culminating in Dracula being attacked by vultures atop a church spire, and then being stabbed to death in true 'over the top' Hammer style.

Unquenchable Thirst is exciting, vastly over the top and bears all of the traits of a truly classic Hammer film and it's a real shame that the film was never made. However we were incredibly lucky to have it brought to life in such a way as part of Mayhem.

The performance was well served by strong performances from the cast, including narrator Jonathan Rigby, who stole the show with a voice that was just made for Hammer. An excellent score, composed by Neil Tolliday, helped both to instill a sense of being in India as well as keep the performance lively during scenes where dialogue was sparse. This worked really well as scene setting during a live act can prove to be a little tedious, but thankfully this was avoided during Unquenchable Thirst. Another charming addition was a live sitar performance from local musician Lance Hume, though regrettably this was over all too quickly, which is pretty much my only criticism of the entire reading. 

There was obviously a lot of love and effort put into adapting Unquenchable Thirst for this performance and it paid off, giving the audience a thrilling experience that made for a refreshing change after three solid days of film! Keep your eyes out for further performances (please, Mayhem!) as there are, excitingly, another seventy unfilmed scripts in the archives. Penny Reeve

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As the midnight screening on Day Three of Mayhem, cult classic Society was screened from a 35mm print. The Brian Yuzna directed film starred Billy Warlock as Michael J. Fox Bill Whitney, and Devin DeVasquez as Phoebe Cates Clarissa Carlyn. Bill has long suspected that he is different in some way from his upper class family, and the status-obsessed society of which they are a part. His investigations lead him deeper and deeper into an utterly batshit turn of events, culminating in a party where all is revealed and, amongst other things, a man is found to be wearing his own face as an asshole. 

Baywatch, General Hospital and Days of Our Lives star Warlock probably had his career highlight as Michael J. Faux, the mulleted basketball scholar who drives to the beach in a 4x4 with personalised HOOPS number plate. He dates the local cheerleader, and is running for class president. He’s got a good dollop of Zach Morris to him, and the opening act plays like a slightly off-kilter Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The action is insane, the dialogue hilarious and the closing scene indescribable. For all its shock value, I believe Society is trying to make a statement, albeit with all the subtlety of a man using his own asshole as a face. 

I guess whether or not you’ll enjoy Society will depend as much on the circumstances in which you see it more than anything else. As part of a festival like Mayhem, it was weirdly perfect and hugely enjoyable – the subject matter was creepy enough for the horror/cult audience to be satiated, and the dialogue and often-ridiculous nature of the plot was perfect fodder for a punch-drunk crowd in a midnight screening. But if I stumbled across it on TV one Sunday evening I’d likely pick up my revolver and put a bullet through the screen like Elvis. 

I’ll be frank with you dear reader: I genuinely have no idea where to start with the review for this. If you haven’t seen it, nothing I can say will sway you to do so, or accurately depict what Society is really like. And if you have, you’re as likely to have experienced it in a completely different way to me, and everyone else in the cinema. It’s the closest I’ve come to seeing the weird dreams you have after drinking absinthe on screen, for what that’s worth.  I’m sorry if this feels like a cop out, but it’s important for a writer to know his limits.  Have you ever had a dream that felt so real, but the moment you try to explain it to someone else you realise how stupid it is? That’s what happened when I tried to write this review.  If you were in that screening, God bless, buona fortuna; you survived, and we will always be part of a sacred band of brothers. If you weren’t, you missed a real doozie. I’m off to have a nice cup of tea with cream, sugar and a nice dash of piss. Ash Carter.

The Unquenchable Thirst of Dracula and Society showed at Broadway Cinema as part of Mayhem Film Festival on Saturday 17 October 2015.

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