Review: The Dunwich Horror

RACHEL TOOKEY is impressed with the effective and clever use of soundscapes in this strong production.

acting Corpus dunwich horror review shedload theatre

Tue 2nd – Sat 6th May, 7.45pm, Corpus Playroom, £7/6

Shedload Theatre present a dramatized reading of one of HP Lovecraft’s most satisfying short stories. The Dunwich Horror is a tale of decay and disturbia set in an old, old New England town nestled in a familiar, yet jarring countryside. Perhaps not the most horrifying or gruesome of his works, it’s satisfying in the slow churning reveal of the mysterious Whately family at its core.

And this dramatized reading – for the most part – was just right.

David Green was the sole performer, and proved a fixating storyteller. In any dramatic reading, a balance needs to be struck between telling and performing, so that the story is presented, but not overpowered by reader. Happily, Green smartly navigated between the two, and gave the story a vivid life.

dunwich

what lurks in the shed? Shedload perhaps?

 

The beginning was a tad rushed, and could have done with a more nuanced delivery to tease out both the shards of horror and the moments of comedy in Lovecraft’s at times ironic writing. Characters throughout were occasionally lost to the same urgent, breathy delivery.Yet Green soon found his rhythm, and delivered to us an old yarn by the fireside. Once there, he moved fluidly between different characters, shifting nicely between moments of comedy to the growing horror. Despite performing for 1 hour and 45 minutes, he only gained in momentum and delivered an impactful and titillating final.

The moments of drama, through hand gestures, the torch and the book were well placed. The slowly dropping paper as the story progressed eerily punctuated the show. Mention must be made, of course, of the sound effects that punctuated and layered the show. There is always a danger with sound effects in a horror show of being so overdone as to be hammy, or so clichéd as to detract. Luckily, these sound effects were a real treat. Created live by sound technicians Jon Siddall and Matthew Barnes behind a screen on stage, they had an organic, fresh texture that only accentuated the story. Even the screams, so easy to get overdo, were pleasingly deep and juddering.

Nyarlathotep

i would not want to hear how this sounds at all…

 

Lovecraft’s key technique in writing horror is to show the audience only a glimpse or shard of what we fear and let us fathom the unseen whole. This played out nicely in the sounds: the squelching, squirming, slurping noise of an unseen creature – which I later discovered was grapefruit being fondled to a microphone – was delightfully gross. The extensive experimentation clearly went into their creation producing a professional and unique soundscape. While a satisfying production, Shedload Theatre should attempt even more ambitious soundscaping in future – Lovecraft’s ‘Rats in the Walls’ would be a  is a story uniquely open to such treatment.

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groovy logo too, am I right?

 

Altogether, this was a pleasing, jarring, fulfilling piece of storytelling, and a lovely escape on a midsummer’s evening. If you’re free from exams, do pop along.

4 stars