Writer: Matt Barnes, based on the story by H.P. Lovecraft
Director: Tim Vaughan
Reviewer: Scott Matthewman
The Colour Out of Space is one of H P Lovecraft’s better known short stories, and its tale of a mysterious infection spread from a meteor of unknown origin has provided many a creative inspiration in the ninety odd years since.
Shedload Theatre’s staging takes its inspiration from the story’s first-person narration, Joe Sefton assuming the role of a surveyor who is assessing the lands around Lovecraft’s fictional town of Arkham, and begins to hear of the origins of a “blasted heath”.
The original tale of a mysterious substance which emerges from a strange meteor works on the printed page, partly because the alien substance itself is designed to evade description – a colour that defies description, and which those who look upon it experience on an emotional level as much as a visual one.
Restricting the play to a narration by Sefton, with no attempt to recreate the colour itself, helps the audience appreciate the imagery of Lovecraft’s writing. What production company Shedload brings to the dramatic performance, though, is the use of onstage foley work – sound effects and atmospheric audio.
To maintain the attention on Sefton’s narration, Matt Barnes and Andrew Longhurst perform their sound effects from behind a large black apron. Thunderclaps, menacing footsteps, even a woman’s horrified screams – all are mechanical constructions, adding to the air of menace and foreboding.
The result is an evening of tense, Lovecraftian menace that pays a magnificent tribute not only to America’s foremost creator of 1920s horror but the craft of the foley artist that has supplemented radio, film and TV broadcasts for over a century.
After the conclusion of Sefton’s tale, the curtain is removed and Barnes and Longhurst demonstrate the mechanical origins behind their ethereal soundtrack. It is a satisfying postscript to a short play that epitomises what the Lovecraft Festival, which has now completed it second annual run, is all about.