It would be hard to think of anywhere more appropriate to host a play based upon the life of HP Lovecraft than London’s Vault Festival. Buried deep within the dark dank supports of the railway lines running in and out of the capital’s busiest railway station theatre spaces have been created in the arches for the festival’s duration and we were lucky enough to be invited along to see Providence: The Shadow Over Lovecraft by Simon Meader and Dominic Allen just one of the many productions on offer at https://vaultfestival.com/.
As we took to the wooden benches in the vault appropriately named The Pit the figure of Lovecraft (Simon Meader) himself loomed from the stage, seated in a winged armchair with a leather-bound Necronomican on his knee. To his left a white shrouded ghost was cutting a dash to some suitably ancient jazz, what a little mover he was.
Houselights down and Lovecraft rises from his seat and announces that he is going to drown himself in the river that runs through this graveyard. He fails largely due to the fact that he holds his breath which is never a good idea if you fancy putting a watery end to yourself, but then who should turn up in this lonely Rhode Island cemetery but our friend the ghost (Dominic Allen) and who should the shade be but the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe.
At the risk of giving too much away Poe fulfils the role of an acid crazed comic Jacob Marley to Lovecraft’s Ebenezer Scrooge over the next hour or so as he takes Lovecraft on a madcap journey back to the unhappy childhood that shaped his personality and then forwards to meet his destiny as an editor and writer and his eventual death at the age of 46 in 1937, visiting number of his best known works on the way. On the journey Allen gets to play Lovecraft’s mother, wife, literary agents, various doctors and friends including Clark Ashton Smith.
Providence: The Shadow Over Lovecraft is a very funny show that takes in both dexterous wordplay and exuberant physical clowning and slapstick. The performance is packed with literary and biographical gags that show a real love for the subject matter but are not afraid to highlight some of Lovecraft’s less likeable traits like his misogyny and anti-Semitism. Like Morecambe and Wise or Vic and Bob there is a real electricity between Meader and Allen that is emphasised by the fact that the long lanky straight man Meader towers over Allen.
A Christmas Carol for the Weird generations, go see it if you get the chance 666/666.