There’s magic in store with ‘Here There Be Monsters’

Kingston’s underground world of goblins and ghouls is home to more monsters than usual this week. Descend into the Kingston Gaming Nexus, if you dare, and follow the eerie carnival noises through a maze of board games to the back of the basement store. Here, you’ll find an unusual sight: Eldritch Theatre has set up shop, and Doctor Pretorious Wuthergloom (Eric Woolfe) is prepared to entertain and educate the masses with his latest cautionary cabaret, Here There Be Monsters

Shrunken heads and old-timey apparatuses beckon from under green and purple lights as audience members slowly settle into their seats. The vibe, if you hadn’t guessed, is incredibly Halloweeny. Before the show, Wuthergloom’s assistant Camille (Emma Mackenzie Hillier) makes a bid for patrons to part with their cash, peddling Doc Wuthergloom’s Field Guide to Monsters for the low, low price of $5. This alphabetical index, she insists, contains crucial information that will protect you from the soul-eating fiends that lurk in dark corners! What, you don’t want one? Are you sure? Well, so be it—but she’s very concerned for your soul! 

The bit gets old quickly—perhaps because the Friday night crowd is quite small—but once the show begins, Doc Wuthergloom revives it and makes it dance like a trained zombie. Embodying the energy of a disgruntled travelling salesman with a dash of necromancy and vaudevillian timing, Wuthergloom slips between character voices like a man possessed, bringing creepy puppets to life as he presents a series of sordid tales. 

Walking the line between corny and clever, Wuthergloom sometimes wobbles, but it makes for an entertaining tightrope act. Magic tricks with cards, ropes, and an assortment of other objects are woven deftly into the storytelling, and there’s enough audience engagement to keep spectators engaged and on their toes. 

Some of the funniest moments come when the show veers away from classic horror and Victorian parlour fare and adopts a more distinctly 21st-century Ontarian tone. By making sharp comments about mobsters paving the Green Belt and telling the twisted tale of a cat disappearing into the Toronto subway tunnels, Wuthergloom stretches the genre and gives Here There Be Monsters a more unique shape. In the end, I didn’t buy a copy of the Field Guide To Monsters (sorry, Camille), but I greatly enjoyed an evening spent meeting the creatures in Doc Wuthergloom’s cabinet of horrors. 

Doc Wuthergloom’s ‘Here There Be Monsters’ plays nightly at the Kick & Push Festival until Saturday, August 5th, 2023. More information can be found here.