HP Lovecraft’s fables of pitiless elder gods and squiddish entities from undesirable dimensions provide a rich source of scary material, but this one-man stage adaptation by writer and actor Michael Sabbaton fails to raise the required chills.
Set in the 1920s the actions follows a range of characters – including an art student, police inspector and professor – as they come under the baleful influence of the slumbering deity Cthulu and his nefarious cult. Presented as a series of monologues Sabbaton assails each role with a passion and cannot be faulted on his acting or indeed his American accent.
The fault lies with the narrative, which lurches from one character to another, causing confusion and undermining tension. Just as one story starts drawing you in it abruptly stops, and the differences between the roles are not always clearly delineated.
Elsewhere the discordant sound effects and murky lighting are both highly effective and the minimal staging allows Sabbaton to focus attention on his performance. Ultimately there is a kernel of a highly unsettling show here and with a few tweaks to the script Sabbaton could transform this from a slightly scary Jackanory to a truly terrifying experience.
- James Stanley