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A Curious Invitation - Halloween Special

TOAST chats to A Curious Invitation about their gruesomely terrifying plans this Halloween

What could be more apt at Halloween than a Theatre of Blood? TOAST chats to immersive events curator Suzette Field, the party pro behind arts events company A Curious Invitation, to learn more about her terrifying plans for Halloween...



Since TOAST last spoke to Suzette, it’s fair to say that she’s been rather busy. Her latest venture - arts events company A Curious Invitation - has been rolling out extraordinary parties, lectures, workshops and more across London and beyond and after a demanding summer, October certainly provides no relief.

October is my hellish month of the year, in both senses!” Suzette laughs, Autumn has traditionally been a time where death is celebrated in various cultures with festivities, like Mexico’s Day of the Dead, All Hallows' Eve and the Hindu festival of Pitru Paksha. At this time of year when the earth is dying ahead of its annual renewal, we like to celebrate our own awareness of mortality, even if it’s just by something silly like dressing up as ghouls or zombies!”

But Suzette has got far more than silliness planned for Halloween this year – A Curious Invitation will be hosting a whopper of a Halloween ball called Theatre of Blood and it is set to be a dark and extraordinary tribute to the classic films of British horror, featuring five stages, four immersive realms and a cast of over 100 performers.

I used to run underground cinema nights in Shoreditch back in the mid 90s when it was an unknown and largely derelict district of London, and as a result I’ve always liked my parties to have a strong cinematic element… explains Suzette.

Halloween is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the British cinematic horror genre by using them as inspiration for a series of immersive party realms. There are four railway arches which feature scenes from the film Asylum, where doctors dispense massages and other treatments to inmates, The Wicker Man with a replica of the original totem, Hellraiser which included corporal punishment from Captain Crop, and a cabaret stage featuring the Brides of Dracula, where you can become one of the Count’s wives!”

Blimey. I am intrigued, excited and completely terrified all at the same time.

Oh and The Mausoleum gives you the chance to enjoy your own bespoke wake - you get to lie in state in one of our coffins, surrounded by your loved ones, with a playlist of your chosen funereal music. It’s important that guests want to return to my parties and they expect something new, so I always try to go bigger and better.

Acurious Invitation Halloween Coffin

And not forgetting The Drawing Room, where guests can get creative and have a go at sketching some of the creepy characters that lurk inside.

I think there should always be a chance for the guests to be creative and not just classed as a spectator. Traditionally dance allows expression at parties but drawing and art permits the quieter souls to find a medium in which they can interact with the performers and other guests too.

Speaking of performers – braves guests can enjoy the likes of Kirby Marzell who will lie on a bed of nails, and the Chivaree Circus who will perform a breath taking Halloween aerial show.

Achalloween Circus

Achalloween Acrobats

I have an address book full of London’s eeriest oddball performers and artists Suzette explains.  As I mentioned for the film Hellraiser we have a lovely but rather strict “dom” who goes by the name of Captain Crop in the role of Pinhead - many of my guests are nice, middle-class professional people, as is The Captain in his day job, but interestingly this room always has a very long queue...

A Curious Invitation Halloween Scenes

A Curious Invitation Halloween Spectacular

A Curious Invitation Halloween

It’s not just Suzette’s troupe of terrifying performers that will be dressing up either, oh no. Guests are proactively encouraged to ‘evoke ENVY and perhaps a little lascivious LUST’ with their attire for the night, as Halloween is ‘an opportunity to consult the darkest recesses of your imagination on what sinister fiend you secretly desire to be (albeit for just 24 hours)’. Suzette's recommendations include fairy tale creatures, pagan gods, possessed beasts, kings, dukes, knights, suicides, lunatics, poisoners, cut-throats, gallows-birds, procuresses, geishas, jailers, cardsharpers, hangmen, informers, traitors, seducers, vampires and more.

I’m always amazed at the ingenuity and the time people put into designing and making their costumes,” enthuses Suzette.

The guests make a vital contribution to the look and atmosphere of an event. I don’t expect everyone to spend a week designing and sewing their own outfits, but it’s lovely that so many people go to so much trouble.”

Achalloween Vampire

Achalloween

A Curious Invitation Halloween Snake

Achalloween 2017

All this will be taking place at London’s historic Coronet Theatre, which Suzette tells me was originally a Victorian theatre that then became a cinema. This iconic venue is set for demolition in 2018 as part of the regeneration of the Elephant and Castle area - Suzette has been hosting parties there since 2010, but her Halloween Ball will sadly be its grand finalé.

An impressive 2,500 guests are expected at Theatre of Blood, and in addition Suzette is also hosting another more intimate Halloween event for just 600 (!) called Once Upon A Midnight Dreary, inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe. This smaller ball will take place across 4 floors (which includes Soho’s largest roof terrace) at London’s Century Club, and promises to be a fitting tribute to the ‘Master of Macabre’ and a spooky celebration of ‘murderers and madmen, revenants and revengers, fatal passions and premature burials…’

I originally come from Los Angeles and my late father, Frank Field, was good friends with Vincent Price, who of course played the lead in many film adaptations of the works of Edgar Allen Poe, so I’ve always had a fondness for him. And of course Poe pretty much invented the modern psychological horror genre,” Suzette explains.

At this particular event I will also be utilizing my other profession as a taxidermist and entomologist to host a class in butterfly setting, which will give guests the chance to create to take something aesthetic home with them, and this also gives me a chance to interact with some of my guests. Some people have said that this is their favourite room - it’s important to have something for all tastes.

Not only is Suzette up to her eyeballs planning her various Halloween festivities, but October is also London Month of the Dead - a series of salons, tours, concerts and other events that she co-hosts, produces and curates with Stephen Coates of Antique Beat - an independent arts label who publish and produce music and a variety of bespoke collaborations in unusual locations. In the case of London Month of the Dead, the unusual location is in fact London’s ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries that were built in Victorian times to relieve the pressure on central London’s overcrowded graveyards - many of them are now in a state of disrepair, so 20% of the revenue generated by Suzette's events will be donated towards the restoration and upkeep of these historic spaces. And once October is over what’s next for Suzette, party planner extraordinaire?

Well I wrote a book called “A Curious Invitation - the 40 Greatest Parties of Literature” and I’ve recreated about 6 of them so far so I’m still working my way through the rest. So hopefully there’s plenty more inspiration there, courtesy of some of the greatest writers in world literature she explains.

When it comes to the future of immersive events I think that at some point we’ll all be walking around wearing enhanced reality headsets and our entire lives will be a fully immersive entertainment experience. Of course this all sounds like a Philip K Dick novel, which is why my next party - a Winter Masked Ball at the Vaults in Waterloo – will be themed around his works”

Achalloween Group

In between planning vast Halloween balls, her futuristic Philip K Dick inspired party and unusual events in dilapidated graveyards, I can't help but wonder how Suzette keeps calm despite the incredibly demanding nature of her job...

Well my lovely Siamese kitten sits on my lap as I fill in health and safety assessments and licensing contracts!” she explains.

And currently my five year old daughter is helping me prepare some of the Halloween decorations - such as the 100 vintage china dolls which she has gladly disrobed to be painted white so they can hang from the bannisters as people climb the stairs at the Century Club…!”



If you’d like to work with Suzette and A Curious Invitation you can find their page in TOAST’s Little Black Book. You can also read our earlier Spotlight interview with Suzette all about the wider work of A Curious Invitation over on TheEdit, and if that isn't enough her book A Curious Invitation: The Forty Greatest Parties in Literature is also available to buy on Amazon. 

The Theatre of Blood Halloween Ball takes place on Friday 27th October at the Coronet TheatreOnce Upon A Midnight Dreary takes place on Saturday 28th October at The Century Club, Soho. For more information and tickets you can get in touch with A Curious Invitation via their page today. 

For more information on the London Month of Dead visit www.londonmonthofthedead.com

 
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