Creators: Raising Ashes Theatre
Reviewer: Christie-Luke Jones
Late Night with Cthulhu takes place in the fictional shared universe of ubiquitously popular cosmic horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft’s Elder Gods (Cthulhu et al.) have long since awoken from their ancient slumber and have spent the last few hundred years comprehensively enslaving all of humanity. Cut to the city of Londinium, where a new state-approved talk show, backed by an unseen being known only as THE PRODUCER, is keeping the worker’s thoughts and dreams in check with some carefully-selected post-apocalyptic light entertainment.
Right off the bat, this is not a show for the neutral. Unless you’re at least superficially au fait with the Cthulhu mythos, long stretches of the performance will go right over your head. While it’s admirable that the writers have done their best to ensure that Late Night with Cthulhu is packed to the gills (pun intended) with nods and winks to several titles from Lovecraft’s vast body of work, it’s their enslavement to fan service that prevents this from being a successful piece of theatre in its own right. The non-stop callbacks begin to grate very quickly, with the threat of a meaningful standalone narrative repeatedly averted by wave after wave of not-so-subtle takes on a Lovecraftian dystopia.
Much of the show is led by Arabella Fenneck Reid and Sebastian Baxter Thompson, grinning talk show hosts whose overwhelming fear of THE PRODUCER rapdily affects their ability to competently broadcast the doctrine of their celestial overlords. Thompson is a hundred flavours of fun, treating the audience to mesmerising physical and vocal contortions as he struggles to hold himself together under the watchful eye/s of his otherworldly employer. Even when the jokes are at their most obvious, his commitment to the schtick never fails to entertain. The same cannot be said of his co-host Reid, who stumbles on her lines and generally gives the impression that she needs more time to study the material beyond simply memorising the words. As a result, her delivery feels incredibly laboured, and Thompson is under constant pressure to maintain the pace of the show when Reid’s punchlines miss their mark.
Reid and Thompson’s talk show segments are thankfully punctuated with some genuinely funny monologues from a one-man human resistance group determined to bring down Cthulhu and his minions. These provide welcome respite from the irrational pacing and forced humour that hamper the rest of the show, and hint at what could have been if Late Night with Cthulhu had dared to venture a little further from the confines of its source material. As with Thompson, our beleaguered hero fully commits to his role, stammering and nervously wringing his hands as he implores the inhabitants of Londinium to join him in recapturing mankind’s freedom.
Late Night with Cthulhu is, for the most part, a plucky attempt at bringing silly, over-the-top humour to Lovecraft’s dark and foreboding fictional universe. Unfortunately, a lack of meaningful original material and a jarringly lacklustre performance from one-third of its small cast mean that even diehard Cthulhu fanboys will leave the theatre feeling underwhelmed by this one.
Reviewed on 9 February 2019 | Image: Contributed