Christopher Lee and Barbara Shelley in 'Dracula, Prince of Darkness' (1966)
Who doesn’t occasionally feel a sharp pang of vampire lust? A yearning to expose the delicate white flesh of your throat to a caped stranger with protuberant canines? The desire to couch down in a velvet-lined coffin with a thousand year-old bloodsucker?
Ingrid Pitt in The Vampire Lovers (1970)
It’s only human to long for the undead, isn’t it? Or, at least, it is for those who grew up watching Hammer horror films. My childhood and teen years were filled with women in blood-stained nighties fleeing Christopher Lee and his quiff of vampire hair. It was all heaving bosom melodrama, with the vampire’s bite a potent metaphor for a very different kind of penetration. We all thrilled as our blood chilled. The front cover of this month’s Amorist features a still from the Hammer classic Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968) with the voluptuous Veronica Carlson playing the victim of Lee’s fangs.
Valerie Leon starred in 'Blood from the Mummy's Tomb' (1971)
So everyone at Amorist Towers was delighted when Hammer Films invited us to sample its first foray into immersive theatre: The Soulless Ones. Hammer has taken over Hoxton Hall (one of London’s best preserved music halls) for the month of October and Dutch courage is required not to scream your way through the entire performance.
The satanic rites start around 8pm in the central theatre and then audiences are encouraged to wander the building from the attic space down to the spooky basement, which is partially a grave-yard, partially a tented boudoir. It’s seductive stuff, with vampires in ripped bodices and Byronic poets in man-bloomers.
I was particularly taken with regal Kate Sissons playing Carmilla Queen of the Vampires (in the poster, below), who must decide whether to sacrifice one of her own for the good of the species.
The thing to do is to follow your favourite ghoul from room to room and inhabit their story, before convening back in the main theatre for the ritual sacrifice. I recommend you take a group of friends and dress up for the experience (From £48.50 a ticket on https://www.hoxtonhall.co.uk/hammer-house-horror-live/). You may not get to sleep with a vampire, but you’ll undoubtedly go home inspired for a little Halloween night action.
Rowan Pelling, editor, The Amorist
My most beautiful of all little blue grey mouse catching, pearly bottomed, creamy-thighed, soft-waisted mewing rat-pursuers!
Letter from Peter Pears to Benjamin Britten, 1941