Here at STARBURST we have a habit of discovering creative teams early on in their endeavours, and we greatly enjoy watching them develop their practice as the years roll by. One such group, now in their third year of making theatre shows, is horror-theatre specialists Danse Macabre, who are currently presenting new play Goodnight Mr Spindrift at the Old Red Lion Pub Theatre in Islington. Set in a near-future dystopian Britain, the problems of housing, poverty, and social cleansing have become even more prevalent than they are now. Co-habiting couple Isaac and Archie have volunteered for a government test that will change their lives: pass, and they get a nice house in a decent area; fail, and they aren’t allowed to see each other ever again, and presumably have to live somewhere even worse than the squalid temporary accommodation that is the setting for the play. Writer Nancy Netherwood makes her professional debut with this 70-minute piece that has some excellent ideas at its heart, but which, in our opinion, requires a little more finessing to be regarded as a finished product. Whilst the production company and Nancy’s views are that the play is about testing the strength of a relationship, we felt that the conceit of an idea so strong and embedded within a national psyche that it has become manifest, was a strong plot line that underpinned the action. The frequently mentioned Mr Spindrift is this icon, this symbol, this totem for a government seeking to control its population in ever more oppressive ways. It’s admirable what Danse Macabre have managed to achieve on what appears to be a tiny budget. Natasha Dawson’s imaginative set design sets up the mood of the piece in a brilliantly effective manner, suggesting to us that we are in a world that arises from a nightmare – harsh jagged lines and a giant shattered picture frame lead us from the beginning of the action to understand that Isaac and Archie’s relationship will be tested to its limits. All of the acting performances are top notch, in particular Jacob Ward as Isaac, slowly realising that his life will never be what he wants it to be. Whilst this play has a strong central premise, and many good ideas in discussion, it is in the many ideas that its faults lie: there is too much going on here – a subplot about missing children could probably spin off into a show of its own, or be the central strand of the second act of a longer script. Indeed, it feels like, in an effort to fit into the ‘festival fringe theatre’ model, which demands shows with a running time of ‘around an hour’, that a dis-service has been done to the various plot strands present here, all of which deserve to be fully untangled. We recommend this show if you want to see a piece of horror theatre, done well, from a company still experimenting with form and structure – you’ll be able to say you saw them when they were still working out how to scare the pants off you. Goodnight Mr Spindrift plays at the Old Red Lion Theatre, 418 St John Street, London, nightly until April 27th at 7.30pm.