The Call of Cthulhu ****

Michael Sabbaton in The Call of Cthulhu

Michael Sabbaton in The Call of Cthulhu. Image courtesy of the EdFringe Media Office

Hill Street Theatre, 5 – 30 August 2010

Reviewed for the British Theatre Guide

Talking to yourself is the first sign of madness, so what better way to reinterpret H P Lovecraft’s classic horror story than as a dramatic monologue?

The style allows the indescribable horrors of the ancient god Cthulhu and his sunken citadel, R’lyeh, sensibly to remain unrepresented except as oblique hints and references, subtly sketching silhouettes and squamous details in the audience’s imaginations – just as Lovecraft’s story does.

In portraying five very different men each driven mad by forbidden knowledge, Michael Sabbaton cycles from commanding through unsettling all the way to full-on disturbing, but is never short of captivating. Fog, dingy lighting and a superb soundscape – incorporating off-kilter alien rumblings and the many moods of water, from gentle rain to raging surf – conjure an atmosphere of oppressive, gloomy, creeping dread.

Anyone not acquainted with Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos will have to work hard to keep up with the plot, which writhes and recurves through a disjointed series of flashbacks and one-sided conversations. But as a meditation on madness and the impossibility of un-learning knowledge, however unpleasant – that is, as an attempt to capture the essence of the source material – The Call of Cthulhu is potent indeed.

Written by Michael Sabbaton

Cast includes Michael Sabbaton

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