Anyone who knows me will know that I’m a huge fan of the work of author H.P Lovecraft. His groundbreaking work was generally thought of as ‘schlocky’ at the time, but today his writing has influenced everything from books to video games to movies. Fans of Lovecraft will know the story of his life well, and that is exactly what this two man play tells us. Don’t be worried if you think you know Lovecraft so well that this play couldn’t tell you anything new about the author, as the play is incredibly engaging while managing to be funny and tragic.
The story begins with Lovecraft attempting to commit suicide in his hometown of Providence, Rhode Island where he meets the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe. Lovecraft and Poe are played superbly by Simon Maeder and Dominic Allen respectively (Allen also plays various other characters), and the pair begin to tell the story of Lovecraft’s life, from his father’s institutionalisation in the 1890s right up to Lovecraft’s death in 1937. Throughout the performance, the pair act out excerpts from Lovecraft’s work, including The Statement of Randolph Carter, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, and Herbert West: Reanimator amongst others.
The play doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the whole thing is drenched in humour, which is needed for a tale like Lovecraft, which can be incredibly bleak at times. It also comes in handy when dealing with the subject of Lovecraft’s racism. Fans will know that Lovecraft was a monumental racist who hated almost everyone. This subject is handled very well with humour, while never making light of the subject. It also explores themes that Lovecraft’s racism inspired some of his most famous works.
The performance is simplistic, but it needs to be given the small space they had to worth with, using only a book, an armchair and a coat stand with a few costumes on. They used each in different ways to create different environments. The sound and lighting is amongst the best I’ve seen at the Edinburgh Fringe. while it is never used to outright scare, it helps to build atmosphere in many scenes, with increases in colour coming with increased tension, repeating sounds adding to the threat.
Providence is nearly perfect in terms of what I want out of a fringe theatre production. Fantastic acting, superb sound and lighting design and work. Brilliantly written, and easy to get into whether you know anything about Lovecraft or not.
Providence is on for the rest of the Fringe until the 25th of August at Assembly Rooms – Front Room and will also be attending the London Horror Festival at the end of October.