Get scribbling in those diaries my stagnant blooms because come February that there London is getting an HP Lovecraft Festival all of its own.
Organised by our good friends at Vulcanello Productions the London Lovecraft Festival will run from 6 to 11 February at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden Town, which is great news for us, especially as it means we now have a perfect excuse for scarfing some excellent haddock and chips at the nearby Poppies too! What would our fishy overlords from Innsmouth think about that?
Speaking of Innsmouth the Lovecraft Festival is built upon the success of productions such as Hidden Basement’s Shadow Over Innsmouth along with Vulcanello’s own genderswitched Mountains of Madness, both of which we enjoyed so much at the London Horror Festival, (see links to our reviews of Shadows and Mountains) and the week-long event features revivals of both of these together with another five productions. These include two exclusive world premieres, for fans of Cthulu, tentacled horrors, creeping insanity from other dimensions, and other lightly baked elements of the Lovecraft Mythos.
Among the other Lovecraftian works adapted for this event are: The Thing on the Doorstep,: Arsenath’s Tale, A Nightmare in Ashcroft and Pickman’s Model. Inspired from the mythos (of things creeping into our world from beyond) is The Dead, LIve; and for something completely different there is a live, audience-inspired horror improvisational group, The Society of Strange. Each show will run for two performances, except for The Dead, Live which is Sunday matinée only. Participating companies are: The Other Realm, Vulcanello Productions, Hidden Basement Productions, Scytheplays Limited, Raising Ashes Theatre, and Extempore Theater. Each show is approximately one hour-long making it easy to have a double-header night of theater.
‘The fans made it clear they want more,’ said festival founder T..L Wiswell:’ Lovecraft is fun to watch on stage. And for people who make theater and love the mythos, this is a great chance to geek out like there’s no tomorrow. There are several Lovecraft conventions in the US, such as NecronomiCon and CthuluCon … I was sure there was enough support in London to justify six straight nights of this. It’s not really going to get the Donmar audience but we know the fans are out there, occasionally masquerading as a part of human society.’
I guess that includes us!
The festival opens with a world premiere, Raising Ashes’ Theatre’s A Nightmare in Ashcroft, at 7 PM 6-7 February (two nights) they told us: ‘Something strange is going on in Ashcroft Collier (Tyne and Wear, England). Inspector LeGrasse has been tasked with the interrogation of some of the more “reasonable” inhabitants of a small shipping town, as part of wider police proceedings. But all is not as it seems. Are the audience really who they claim to be, what are the motives of the helpful Reverend Heath, and what are these dreams the inspector keeps having, and how are they linked to this small shadowed town?
Our immersive production, loosely based on A Shadow Over Innsmouth, makes the audience members unwitting members of Cthulhu’s cult. They’re all in on it, and all intent on driving Abigail LeGrasse to the brink of madness. We hope to implicate the audience so much that they join in the final chant; Cthulhu F’htagn!
H.P. Lovecraft once supposed that mankind’s greatest fear, was the fear of the unknown, the creeping dread so familiar to his ill-fated protagonists, the horror that overwhelms. and it is this uncertainty and lurking fear we would like to instil in the audience in our immersive production.We hope to truly unsettle, but also to give vent that excitement which many Lovecraft fans have about being members of a conspiracy or cult (of Cthulhu for example).’
The festival’s other premiere is The Thing on the Doorstep,: Asenath’s Tale, which is T.L. Wiswell’s second Lovecraft adaptation after Mountains of Madness. She told us: ‘I started tinkering with gender in Lovecraft two years ago. Lovecraft himself didn’t really write stories about women, but I wanted to see more women on stage so I thought, pfft, he’s out of copyright, let’s show the old misogynist how we do it in the 21st century. I also thought, as a fan, there was surely enough flexibility in the stories to accept change without stretching them too far and Mountains of Madness proved this easily. A female led expedition to the Antarctic? Why not? And, unlike Guillermo del Toro, I actually got my production made.
I was inspired by the quality of the women who auditioned for Mountains … there is just so much talent out there … and I wanted to make another play with female protagonists, but just a two hander. I settled on The Thing on the Doorstep, which as written is narrated by a man, Daniel Upton, with a weak-willed pal, Edward Denby. Denby is interested in the occult and, well, he marries the daughter of a necromancer. Asenath Waite is a minor character in the story, but I became intrigued by her. What would it be like to grow up as an only child with your father constantly telling you weren’t good enough because you were a girl? What would that do to you? And as I started thinking about Asenath, I started thinking about what her best friend would be like, and what it would be like to get married to someone just to please your parents. Before I knew it, I had written a very different story. I’ve tried to follow the original plot of Doorstep, but it’s been turned inside out, because what I needed to do in the end was make a good play, not adhere strictly to Lovecraft’s work. Essentially what I’ve done is add to the mythos. I’m planning on writing a short story that is truly Asenath’s Tale that goes up to the point in The Thing on the Doorstep where Asenath dies so they whole thing can fit together seamlessly for hard-core Lovecraft purists.
As it’s turned out, I have actually cast this play from the Mountains team, so if you come Thursday or Friday to Asenath’s Tale, you can see two of the performers (Natalie Morgan and Erin Wilson) who will be doing Mountains of Madness on Saturday and Sunday. We all expect to be exhausted by Monday, but I’ve got rooms booked in Arkham Asylum for the five of us (including Cathy Conneff, who’s playing the lead in Mountains).’
The full programme is:
7:00 PM: Raising Ashes’ A Nightmare in Ashcroft – World Premiere
9:00 PM: The Society of Strange – Audience inspired improv horror by members of Showstoppers, the Improvised Musical
7:00 PM: Vulcanello Productions’ The Thing on the Doorstep: Asenath’s Tale – World Premiere
9:00 PM: The Other Realm’s Pickman’s Model
10:00 PM: Special appearance by Cthulu himself, doing his lounge act (as channeled by Tom Baker) – free with tickets to Pickman’s Model
7:00 PM Saturday and 6:00 PM Sunday: Vulcanello Production’s genderswitched Mountains of Madness
9:00 PM Saturday and 8:00 PM Sunday: Hidden Basement’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth
3:30 PM Sunday ONLY: Scytheplay’s The Dead, Live
The etcetera Theatre is above the Oxford Arms, 265 Camden High Street, London NW1 7BU. Nearest tube is Camden Town on te Northern Line
To book tickets call: 020 7482 4857
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org