This is a guest post by Kara Dennison.
To date myself yet again when it comes to Howl-O-Scream experience, I remember “Fiends” being “Fiends in the Festhaus.” Now — as probably the majority of the world knows — it’s at the Abbey Stone Theatre in Killarney, with “Night Beats” having taken up residence at Das Festhaus for this time of year. That said, I’d never even seen it in its previous iteration. The nurse costumes were known to me due to some crossover at a Katsucon event not long ago, but I’d never actually witnessed them on their home turf.
If I had to describe “Fiends” briefly, I’d say that it’s exactly like “Rocky Horror” except when it’s not. It has many of the same elements and a similar approach to bawdy humour, but presented in a way that’s a lot more likely to fly over the heads of anyone not already of a dirty-minded disposition. There’s no denying it is full of scantily clad nurses. They’re not going over anyone’s head (well, except for that one bit early on). Nurse Simplicity herself is a walking double entendre when she’s not lying down.
The story — again more of a frame for a jukebox musical than anything we should concern ourselves with too hard — follows their preening Frankenstein analogue as he calls together spooky creatures of all kinds to help him build the ultimate Fiend. With the help of the loyal but put-upon Igor, he creates his “monster”… but it’s not quite what he was expecting.
It feels a bit weird to put the words “family friendly” within spitting distance of “Fiends,” but the naughty jokes are good-natured, non-violent, and placed just out of reach. I imagine some out there might have some issues with the scantily-clad nurses, most of whom seem ready to disrobe for any handsome man who takes the stage. (You can practically feel the word “problematic” vibrating below your feet from the direction of Tumblr.) Your mileage may vary on that. If you’re of the sensibility that this should never ever happen, you will be gnawing your arm off during “Fiends.” But rest assured that Nurse Simplicity and her cohorts do end up doing a lot more than posing and throwing their bras. No, I promise, they do.
Honestly, though, the true hero of the show is Igor. There were a few flubs on the night I went: an occasional mic going dead and one or two blocking slip-ups, certainly nothing indicative of anything more serious than the perils of live theatre. Igor handled any in his vicinity with easy fourth-wall-breaking humour. He was reminiscent to me in many ways of Patsy in “Spamalot” (another show-stealer).
The choice of music was your usual fun mixed bag. Nothing glaringly strange or out of place, a decent spread (much of it expected — you can’t do a show like this and not include “Weird Science”), and well performed. Some of the effects were more on the flashy side, I will say. Fine if you’ve no issues with strobes, but I found myself having to look down and away. They aren’t pervasive, but they are there, and on the bright side it’s pretty easy to tell when they’re going to kick in. I’d like to have seen them do more with the thrust (by which I mean the table poking into the audience, you beasts). The dancers engaged somewhat, but it would have been fun to see them avail themselves of it a bit more, especially considering there was a degree of, if not audience participation, at least audience going-out-into-ing.
I didn’t walk out of this wowed like I did “Monster Stomp,” but this wasn’t meant to wow — it was meant to get giggles, and it definitely did that. It’s a bright, shiny, silly point in a dark and macabre park, and no matter how much you enjoy the terror outside its doors, there’s something rather nice about knowing it’s there when you’d rather laugh than scream.