Posts Tagged ‘H. P. Lovecraft’

Review – The Shadow over Innsmouth – Hidden Basement Productions at the London Horror Festival

October 27, 2017

For me, the highlight of the program for this year’s London Horror Festival was always going to be The Shadow Over Innsmouth, which I had missed on its previous outing in 2015. I know, how could I have, yet with only two day runs for most of these shows, you really have to be on top of your schedule to get to see all of your best picks.

So as you probably know, I’m a Lovecraft fan of long running, or at least a fan of Lovecraft theater. I’m a big fan of the mythos Lovecraft created and really enjoy seeing how people take the source material and make it come alive. This is even more of a thought to me after adapting a Lovecraft work myself last year, but, honestly, I’m still just approaching this like a fan, but a theater fan first. I want to see a good play on stage. Would Hidden Basement deliver? Or would they be too faithful to the original and succeed in recounting the story without making a good play happen?

I’m pleased to report that this inventive company has taken a broad and emotionally satisfying approach to retelling this classic tale of horror. The key moments were covered: the bus ride; the strangeness of Innsmouth; the incident at the general store; the meeting with Zadok Allen; Zadok’s history of the town; the revelation of the narrator’s unexpected past. The fishiness of the folk was handled nicely through the use of puppets, as was the need of having other characters than could be managed just by Phillip North and Claire Matthews – at one point they put the narrator’s hat on top of a hanger and both had a conversation with it. Genius!

The overall feeling of this extremely funny show was one of a light touch with a heavy coat of humor and a tasteful selection of illustrative props (the crown being a touch of genius – its airy construction encouraging us to see the glories described to us – or perhaps entirely missing depending on how reliable you chose to find Robert Olmstead’s story). The Narrator was very obviously going mad … or, shall I say, feeling like he was going mad as he was attempting to adjust his thinking to a very new version of reality. I belly laughed when he started trying to have a conversation with the fish he’d been served for dinner … but how was I to know what was real and what was imagined? This constant struggle between the everyday reality and the intrusion of an external, malevolent reality surrounding our own was nicely illustrated by the rock solid practicality of the narrator’s bride, whose frustrating interactions with her increasingly less sane fiance were QUITE amusing. In short, Hidden Basement delivered a show that was both a winner as an hour long theater piece (it was tremendously engaging) and as a fresh take on a horror classic. With luck it will be revived again, as of the many Lovecraft adapations I’ve seen, this was one of the best.

(This is a review of a show that took place on October 17. 2017 at the Old Red Lion as a part of the

Preview – Dunwich Horror – Ororo Productions at the London Horror Festival

October 17, 2011

While poking around looking for fun theater stuff to do this Halloween, I was very excited to discover that there was going to be a production of a play based on a story by HP Lovecraft. Ooh! Shades of Open Circle Theater’s “HP Lovecraft Theater of Horrors,” one of a regular season of Halloween time eldritch/Cthonic shows! How could we Londoners be so lucky as to have our own All Souls’ spookiness? I tracked down David Dawkins of Ororo Productions and asked him for some answers in person.
Dunwich Horror Armatige
As I knew, Lovecraft never wrote any plays, and Dawkins has adapted this story himself. (It was also done as a radio play in 1945 but this version is not beholden to it.) It was originally done as a one-man show, but now has a cast of nine. Dawkins saw this story as ideal for the stage, as it’s more about “atmosphere and use of language” rather than buckets of blood. “It’s not about an immediate physical threat. The impact comes later. People shouldn’t be scared during the show but should be uncomfortable when they walk out. ” For him, the challenges of adapting it were actually “how you keep from turning it into a talk fest.” His approach was to look at it from a more Brechtian and Commedia dell’arte perspective – to focus on the relationships and movement and to “keep the humor intact.”

Dunwich Horror WizardNow, I’m a Lovecraft fan due to an obsession with tentacled gods, but what is it that sparks Dawkins’ interest in him? “Lovecraft had an a-religious mythos. He looked at science, positing other dimensions, vast univeres, creatures millions of years old. Before him the belief was that the world was very young. But he posited a future before mankind, a reality and a life we couldn’t understand. People were not ready for it at the time.” But these days, alternate universes that exist alongside us are commonplace in science fiction – in Gaiman’s Neverwhere, in Stross’ “Laundry Series” (which are extremely indebted to Lovecraft), and of course in Mieville’s recent Kraken. Our terror is no longer damnation; it’s losing our sanity. And this is the fear that lurks beneath Lovecraft’s writing for me – a terror that we may face any day. I can’t wait to see it from the safety of a seat in the audience.

(“The Dunwich Horror” is running from October 25th to November 6th as a part of the London Horror Festival. All shows will be at 9:30 PM.)