Theatrical Thrillers for Halloween
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Theatrical Thrillers for Halloween

Skip the clichéd movies and cheesy haunted houses: come see what spooky tales Toronto theatres have to offer.

Some of the cast of Theatre 20's Bloodless, a new musical by Joseph Aragon. Photo by Riyad Mustapha.

When the air gets colder, the nights get longer, and pumpkins start to bare their toothless grins, the theatre isn’t the first place you might think to visit as you celebrate the Halloween season. But staying away from Toronto’s stages for the next week could mean that the biggest scare you get this year is seeing a swarm of Honey Boo Boo Childs take over the party on Church Street.

Besides more obvious activities—like the special ghost tour of the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres on Monday, October 29—theatre companies big and small are celebrating the holiday with spooks, jumps, and blood.

Bloodless: The Trial of Burke and Hare
Theatre 20
Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge Street)
To October 28 at 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.

Halloween is a time to see weird, mysterious things you’d never thought you’d live to see. And in this case, it’s a new Canadian musical (heyo!). This brand new, Sweeney Todd–inspired show, by Joseph Aragon and directed by Theatre 20’s Adam Brazier, tells the true story of Edward Hare and Edward Burke. The latter two men, with the help of their spouses, suffocated their rooming house tenants and sold the bodies to the local medical school in 19th-century Scotland. The set and costumes are dark and murky, but the music and performances range from raucous pub chants to brooding songs about the characters’ murderous schemes. And it’s all supported by an all-star cast from Stratford, Shaw, and Broadway.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Lower Ossington Theatre (100A Ossington Avenue)
To November 3 at 8 p.m.; 11 p.m. performances on October 26, 27, and 31.

Photo by Seanna Kennedy.

For the fifth year running, The Rocky Horror Picture Show returns to the Lower Ossington Theatre. If you’re looking for a Halloween show that you can spook right back, this is it. The highly interactive live performance calls for lots of audience participation and shouting, and is a must-see if you’ve never experienced it before.

Doc Wuthergloom’s Haunted Medicine Show
Eldritch Theatre
Performing at a secret location
October 25–28 at 8 p.m.
$25 in advance, $30 at the door

Eric Woolfe reprises the title role in Doc Wuthergloom's Haunted Medicine Show. Photo by Dawn Weaver.

This time, the location is a bit easier to find out: one just has to look at the show’s homepage to read where it might be. But luckily, that’s only part of the appeal of this year’s version of Eric Woolfe’s one-man travelling-salesman act. Instead of cure-alls and hair-growth balms, Woolfe’s Doc Wuthergloom is selling his “home exorcism almanac.” Using puppetry, audience participation, and some impressive magic tricks, Doc Wuthergloom’s Haunted Medicine Show is a tight, tiny performance. It’s well-suited to both younger and older audiences—that is, if you can find it.

The War of The Worlds
Art of Time Ensemble
Enwave Theatre (231 Queens Quay West)
October 30–November 3 at 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.

Nick Campbell and Marc Bendavid star in The War of the Worlds. Photo by John Lauener.

Another returning Halloween special comes from the Art of Time Ensemble, which sold out last year’s live staging of Orson Welles’ famous The War of the Worlds broadcast. With comedian Sean Cullen filling in for Don McKellar, the rest of the virtuosic crew are back at their microphones, including actors Nicholas Campbell and Marc Bendavid, sound effects artist John Gzowski, and designer Beth Kates.

Soulpepper Theatre
Young Centre for the Performing Arts (55 Tank House Lane)
October 26–November 17 at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 1:30 p.m.

Diego Matamoros, Eric Peterson, Maria Vacratsis, and Joseph Ziegler star in Endgame by Samuel Beckett. Illustration by Brian Rea.

Samuel Beckett’s acclaimed play may be the most absurd of the bunch listed here, but you really can’t get more nightmarish than the trapped foursome in Endgame: Hamm, his servant Clov, and Hamm’s trashcan-encased parents, Nell and Negg. All four characters are caught in an endless cycle from which death would be a welcome relief. Director Daniel Brooks returns to the script with a new interpretation after presenting his original version at Soulpepper in 1999. This show should be an unconventional but memorable Halloween celebration.

CORRECTION: October 30, 5:20 PM It was stated that Endgame was previously presented at Soulpepper in 2009, when it was actually staged in 1999. The above has been corrected.