by guest critic Tom Brocklehurst
We discover H P Lovecraft, cult horror writer from Providence, Rhode Island, standing on the banks of the Providence River in 1910 threatening to drown himself. In an It’s A Wonderful Life-style intervention, the ghost of Edgar Allen Poe (Dominic Allen) arrives to try to talk him around. We then flash forwards through the rest of Lovecraft’s life in this biographical comedy, with Poe helping him along the way.
It sounds like a strange idea for a play, but it’s a suitably bonkers device for a show about a weird man who wrote very weird tales.
By an anonymous guest critic
Interactive theatre is hard work. Horror theatre is also palpably difficult to get right. In this case, the combination of the two proves too much for this able company of actors. Oneohone – a company specialising in interactive pieces – showcase a series of six shows, and I can only imagine that the other pieces were more successful than the piece that I see, which was at times a stilted, awkward affair.
With Halloween becoming more and more popular this side of the pond, horror theatre and live events are proliferating. The London Horror Festival is bigger than ever, new scare attractions appear all over the country every year and independent events like Frissonic’s Howl expand the otherworldly and terrifying offers for thrill seekers this time of year. A site specific, immersive performance for an audience of six, Howl is a considered, effective performance that induces plenty of jumps. Though the story of a disappeared sister and mysterious voices is patchy, it is well delivered, and combines audience manipulation with technology to create a delightfully creepy event.
The choice of a small audience generates fear from the beginning – there is less protection with fewer people, particularly when paranormal investigator Rory places us on isolated chairs around a large, long-abandoned storage room. We are there to help Rory look into a something he heard when he was recently alone in the theatre, and we use sound to try evoke it again. Wireless headphones, increasing pace and anxiety, and customised audio content create heavy tension and uncertainly ripe for scares.
The ending in a different room is too rushed and betrayed by the lack of a full blackout. Though there is a clear resolution, the reasoning leading up to that point is never fully explained. How does this voice connect to Rory’s sister who disappeared all those years ago? How did we find him and decide we want to help? Rory is very much a character of the present, but frustratingly little of his past is revealed.
Frissonic nail the scares in Howl with their tech and small-audience approach, but adding flesh to the skeletal story will hugely improve it. Currently running at 40 minutes, another 15 or 20 minutes of text will make this feel more theatrical and less reliant on the scares.
Howl runs through 31 October.
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