I wasn’t that enamoured by the source material for this stage adaptation of The Shadow Over Innsmouth. There’s one chapter that has a fair bit of action in it, but overall, the story, whilst falling very much into the category of ‘horror’, it was so other-worldly I failed to be spooked by it. Perhaps the real modern world these days is so genuinely frightening in its own way that the fantasy world of a previous generation is comparatively tame.
This adaptation was, therefore, much more enjoyable than the book. A horror with comedy, it’s performed in a similar style to the Scary Movie film series, with all the elements of a horror story but told in a rather more genial fashion, designed to amuse more than shock. It works very well, with Jade Allen and Philip North playing multiple characters, sometimes with the aid of – wait for it – masks and puppetry, again to great comic effect. Character and scene changes are more often than not done at lightning speed, but a deliberately slightly pedantic script ensures we know who is who and what is what at all times.
Not everything is in chronological order, not least because North’s narrator character, Robert, is trying to write a book about Innsmouth, and is either recollecting or imagining events, or a combination of both. Quite exactly what is going on here is ultimately left for the audience to deduce. But in the process of frantic book writing, normal life carries on, with Robert’s partner regularly trying to have everyday conversations with him. The resulting melee of two separate and distinct thought patterns running simultaneously is pricelessly hysterical.
If events, be they in Innsmouth or in Britain, ever seem a tad implausible, the play itself is intelligent enough to recognise this, providing yet more amusement. It isn’t for everyone – some will find certain lines a bit silly, perhaps even imbecilic. On the whole, though, the comic timing is very strong, and on reflection, the apparent childishness on display is an attempt at conveying the sort of things that grown adults are capable of being terrified by. Maybe, just maybe, there are one or two things in our own lives that we have a completely irrational fear of.
The play did end quite abruptly, almost in the way that some Edinburgh Festival shows suddenly end because they have to, in order to avoid stiff penalties for even going marginally over a pre-agreed time. I am not sure whether lovers of HP Lovecraft’s literature will like this adaptation: I’d say enough of the original narrative is retained such that, despite a very different emphasis, it’s still very recognisable as The Shadow Over Innsmouth. The plot is simplified but not overly so. Either way, a good time was had, and as far as low-budget, brief two-handers go, this one punches above its weight. You couldn’t plausibly accuse this production of being even a little bit too long.
Review by Chris Omaweng
On a frankly tedious architectural tour of the coastline, Robert Olmstead happens across the ancient seaport of Innsmouth… What he discovers there will threaten his life, test his will and shatter his sanity.
Fresh from its sell out world premiere at the London Horror Festival 2015, Hidden Basement Production brings this darkly comic realisation of a Lovecraft classic back to The Etcetera for this year’s Black Box Festival.
This two hander featuring original music, puppetry and physical theatre explores the complex and sometimes deadly relationship between man and fish.
BlackBox: The Shadow over Innsmouth
29th January 2016 – 31 January 2016 at 7:00pm