Thursday, 15 August 2013

Bringing Lovecraft to the stage,

Having decided I wanted to direct a horror play to submit to the group I then had to find something to perform, at first I considered existing plays but really ask most people to name a horror based play and they’ll give you “The Woman in Black” and that’s about it.

Maybe a few others but mostly serious gothic pieces that are intended as ‘serious theatre’ and require big special effects budgets and other such things.

As such I decided to continue The Company’s longstanding tradition of adaptations by trying my hand at one myself,

I’ve had some experience with script-writing during past experience writing some stuff for the small press self-published comic scene so had the basis, all I needed was something to adapt…

I’d been a fan of the Cthulhu Mythos of one Howard Phillips Lovecraft for a while and had considered adapting one of his tales, however due to his work often falling into the ‘cosmic horror’ genre coupled with the first person viewpoint of the often-nameless narrator (often an avatar or analogue of Lovecraft himself) of many tales few lend themselves to the stage.

Which is a shame as the man has quite a reputation amongst various geek circles and a loyal fanbase who would likely be quite excited about seeing his work on the stage.

However a few stories do break away from this mould, one of them being The Dunwich Horror, while most of his ‘bigger’ stories are similar to his short tales but on a much grander scale this one is very different.

For one thing it has a much more traditional element of Good vs Evil due to having an actual hero and villain along with breaking away from some of Lovecrafts usual “all that mankind does is naught but dust in a grand universe of uncaring chaos” malarkey.

One of the reasons could be that Lovecraft wrote this tale with a clear influence from Arthur Machen’s earlier tale “The Great God Pan” (even working a name drop into the text) which itself had previously been adapted to stage,

The Dunwich Horror also had an advantage in that it had a large cast of characters from University professors, inbred yokel villagers and a family of deranged monster-people.  It also had something that a lot of Lovecraft stories lacked, women.

Lovecraft was not afraid to admit he was not too good at writing characters of the female persuasion with only a handful of women playing main roles in his tales (often villainous), however Dunwich has several village woman and also given the large cast it would be easy to write several characters as being able to be played by either gender based on who auditioned well.

It also had the potential for our cast to ham it up due to the cast including the aforementioned professors, villagers and crazy folk.  The fact it included an invisible monster (thereby sparing us a bad costume) was just the icing on the eldritch cake.

The final deciding factor for me was the fact the book contains one of my favourite pieces of writing out of all of Lovecraft’s body of work, that being the long extract from the Necronomicon read by Professor Armitage.  The extract has a strange almost poetic feel to the dialogue while at the same time giving a real undercurrent of ‘something being wrong’ that sums up the feeling Lovecraft loved to work into his work.

With this all in mind less than a month after the fateful party that gave me this idea I sat down with a copy of the original tale, an empty word document and a large cup of tea, cracked my knuckles and began writing.

But that’s the story for the next update…

Thursday, 8 August 2013

The Dunwich Horror Production Blog: In the beginning...

Hello Folks and Folkettes

With the first month of rehearsals for our October production wrapped and the Summer break upon us I'll be using my newly granted access to this here blog to discuss some of the aspects of the production, and to test my access thought I'd give you a little preview of what to expect before the big opening come October,

I'll be discussing such things as why I chose such a work to adapt, a little summary of previous adaptations of HP Lovecrafts work, the perks & perils of adapting a work, and the actual directing process itself from my view as a first-time director but long-time directee.

I'd like to start by sharing the story of how this production came to be,
It all started way back last Summer in the aftermath of the aftershow party for Much Ado About Nothing; the morning after a jolly good night those of us who had spent the night had gathered around the table for breakfast the next morning,

Naturally the conversation shifted to past productions and performances and eventually one of our number uttered the question that set this whole thing off,

"Why aren't there more horror plays?"

This simple little question led to a discussion on the fact that it's quite hard to do serious horror on stage especially as an amateur group, without the right effects, budget and all that jazz what is meant to be chilling and terrifying can come across as camp and cheesy,

Some of our number who had been part of a horror production in the past had just such an experience, the director wanted to do a serious psychological horror while the cast saw the material as more akin to a campy Hammer Horror production.  But funny enough when they performed it in said campy Hammer style the audience responded quite well...which is more than can be said for the director...

But I digress, during this production I had been pondering throwing my hat into the directing ring for a while but had been stuck for a decision as to what to perform, did I want to try my hand at legitimate theatre for my first go?  Or something more comedic?  Either way I wanted to do something that I could put my own unique spin as a director on.

Funnily enough given what kicked this discussion off I had considered looking into horror as a genre for this very reason but had shelved such an idea due to lack of existing adaptations available.

This discussion going on around my slightly sleep-deprived brain gave me just the inspiration I needed! As such I declared to the original question-asker that as there was not enough horror productions I would put one forward as my first directing attempt!  To top it all off I would make sure it was to be performed in the aforementioned vein of the Hammer horror films, even if this did mean adapting it myself.

Of course the problem there was having made such a declaration; that in hindsight no one may have even heard given the various level of consciousness and sobriety at the table; I had to then find something to adapt.

Eventually I found just the thing that would be Lovingly-Crafted and Horribly Performable...