Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Dunwich Adaptation



It’s a tricky thing writing an adaptation,
On the one hand what works in one medium may not work for another, for example a large chunk of the early story is spent detailing the history of the story, the growth and development of our antagonist from child to adult-looking child, something that would not really work for a play.

On the other hand you change too much and you risk alienating the fans of the original, however given I’d already said I’d try to adapt something to have the slightly campy hammer horror feel this also gave me a structure on how to make any changes.

As such I followed the mentality of a broad strokes adaptation, in that while the key beats of the story would be included the way we got to them, also the fact I was adapting the play for a specific group meant I could follow certain traditions of adaptation.

We’ve always had a point in The Company of including strong female characters; whether it be finding alternate ways to play an existing character to adding one in without making it feel forced,

Wanting to keep the hammer horror approach I had decided certain characters would fit into certain archetypes from these films while also writing the dialogue to be humorous but keeping the lovecraftian undercurrent of dread and ‘wrongness’ wherever possible.

Professor Armitage the heroic elder librarian was written as if Peter Cushing was playing the part, while his assistants Rice & Morgan became slightly more developed from the original text becoming the comic relief foils to the serious professor.

Also a pair of minor villagers; Curtis Whateley and Sally Sawyer became major roles, Curtis becoming an assistant to the professor by extrapolating from an early mention in the book of Dunwich young men sometimes becoming students at neighbouring towns.

While Sally was able to become the no-nonsense intelligent young lady that is a tradition of The Company while also providing good exposition of the villages nature and combining several of the one-shot village women who describe events over the phone into a more pro-active character.

As well as character decisions I also went through the story to find what I call the ‘key beats’ which need to be shown (a holdover from my comic writing hobby) and can then use this as a structure to build around

This allowed us to cover all 10 years of Wilbur’s growth to adulthood in the first act without having to have multiple actors play Wilbur, and also turn several named villagers into a mix of ‘Greek chorus’ of events and make the townsfolk take a more active role in the story.

I also found ways to give Wilbur more stagetime since he being the villain I felt even though in the text he is taken out of the narrative in a rather ignominious manner partway through.  As this was an issue I had noticed people comment on in the text I was able to use the changes to work in a less anticlimactic manner while keeping true to the story’s theme.

Once this structure was done I was able to get on with scripting the scenes themselves, adding in actual text from the story to the dialogue where possible… along with a couple of nods to other Lovecraft works and other geek culture nods that is another company tradition.

All this was the easy part, after that it was a matter of writing…and rewriting…and rewriting and so on so forth, until after several rewrites, one read-through and a lot of tea being drunk I had a finished script to submit.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on a great performance last night. I'm told by Lovecraft fans who know better than I that it was a brilliant adaptation.

    Break a leg this weekend.

    ReplyDelete