Creator and Director: Sam Enthoven
Reviewer: Maryam Philpott
If you’ve ever thought the novels of H. P. Lovecraft were slightly lacking in atmosphere and threat, that perhaps they could be even scarier then Sam Enthoven has created the show for you. The regular Shiversnights have been running for around twelve months combining short-story readings with Enthoven’s eerie soundtrack. Now, for the Old Red Lion Theatre’s Lovecraft Festival, three new Lovecraft stories have been set to their own haunting composition.
Using a variety of digital instruments to create a changing soundscape of ghoulish sounds, thundering tones and unnerving low hums, the 45-minute Lovecraft Shivers is an unusual theatrical experience that is part concert, part creepy Jackanory. In an atmospherically red-lit theatre, the intimacy of the venue suits the first-person narratives selected for performance – The Statement of Randolf Carter, The Music of Eric Zann and Nyarlathotep.
First, Richard Kellen tells the story of two friends who break into a tomb looking for a staircase to the underworld which results in the disappearance of Henry Warren. The remaining man, the titular Randolf Carter tells the audience the strange and terrible things he heard as Warren was taken. Enthoven’s portentous score is full of scratches and cracks with a skittish quality reflecting the mysterious contents of the mausoleum.
Reading the Parisian tale of Eric Zann, Lucy Brady has a lively and engaging tone that vividly brings the story to life. As the strange music draws the narrator towards Zann’s apartment, Brady quickens the pace, using Lovecraft’s rich descriptions to convey the growing obsession with the sounds she hears, while Enthoven’s accompaniment is all low hums, rumbling tones and scraping strings which morph into his interpretation of Zann’s hellish composition as the piece concludes.
Finally, Jim Osman reads the prose poem Nyarlathotep, about the supernatural powers of a Pharaoh-like creature, doubted by the narrator until a demonstration lures him into a terrible vision that becomes the world. Osman’s reading is the high-point of the evening, with a lovely feeling for the rhythm of Lovecraft’s lines, building the drama with a carefully controlled delivery. Enthoven introduces a series of ominous groaning and drawn-out string sounds with Middle Eastern or Egyptian feel that suits the subject matter.
The music is a constant throughout all of the stories, and while the eerie variations are enjoyable, occasionally they distract from the overall effect and sometimes compete with the particular construction of Lovecraft’s story specifically designed to create tension. Enthoven might consider holding back in the early part of the stories – the scene setting doesn’t need to be quite so threatening – and rather than a blanket of music, a more judicious use of silence during the key points of each tale would add to the creepy effect of the music when it is there. Relishing both the vocabulary and stories, Lovecraft Shivers honours the writer while adding an unusual musical element that makes for an interesting experience.
Reviewed on 4 February 2019 | Image: Contributed