Lighthouse Bookshop’s Radical Book Fair presents Feminist Horror Night in the Assembly Roxy. Originally a church, the venue not only helps to create the eerie and spooky mood, but its historic features and stone pillars help highlight the traditional tropes of a gothic horror setting. Accompanying the creepy atmosphere is blue stage lighting, a stylistic choice that helps to emphasise the supernatural and freaky stories.
The event’s host Katy Lennon, ‘Editrix’ of the Blood Bath literary zine, comments on the rise of horror fiction generally in Edinburgh as well as the importance of feminist horror. Lennon spotlights six female storytellers, all of whom highlight that women in horror are not always “boobilicious blondes being beheaded”. These feminist horror stories instead aim to antagonise the real horrors and oppression felt in daily life and twist them into scary tales.
The most successful performances come from Ever Dundas, Jen McGregor and Zoe Robertson. Dundas gives her performance dressed as her protagonist Claire, a psychopath who works in a lab and aims to increase the efficiency of technology with human body parts. This edgy story captivates the audience not only with its brilliant writing and witty dialogue, but with Dundas’ excellent characterisation capturing everyone’s attention in the room.
Similarly, McGregor jokingly admits she too has come dressed as her protagonist – her story is autobiographical, and details the time her pale skin and gothic fashion had her mistaken for an undead corpse in a graveyard.; Like Dundas, she is very physical in her performance, accentuating an important element of live storytelling that is all too often missed. McGregor’s facial expressions, combined with her clear familiarity in her own words, help her emote confidence. This in turn relaxes the audience and makes her comedic twist on feminist horror all the more enjoyable.
Robertson, the youngest and final storyteller of the evening, projects an impressive confidence in her own voice and words. Much like McGregor’s performance, she allows for the comedic elements of her dark story, detailing a young witch’s obsession with spiritual possession, to be laughed at.
Interestingly, two of the stories, written and performed by Heather Parry and Katalina Watt, focus on the feminine body and pregnancy. These ideas are central to the feminist horror our host Lennon is so passionate about, the antagonization of real-life fears. Parry and Watt’s stories animalise the fears of losing a child or potentially having a child that is inhuman and unloveable. Parry’s story takes the more expected route, of a monster hunting pregnant women, whereas Watt inspired by Philippine folklore explores the idea of women giving birth to demonic beings. These stories, although perhaps not as successful as the other performances, are clearly dear to the feminist horror genre as they perfectly exemplify the aims of this up-and-coming genre.
Overall, although Feminist Horror Night is an eerie and dark event, the clear excitement and thrill from all participants is indicative of the power and want for more works in this rising Scottish genre.
Feminist Horror Night was performed on 15 November 2019 as part of Lighthouse’s Radical Book Fair.
Photo: Kitty Golden