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The H P Lovecraft Chronicles: Michael Sabbaton- Lowry Theatre, Salford

Writer: H P Lovecraft

Performer: Michael Sabbaton

Reviewer: Cathy Crabb

[rating:4]

H P Lovecraft wrote stories at an age of discovery where exotic and strange languages and rituals were unveiled, old civilisations were found and the outer reaches of the sky and sea were yet to be truly explored. Fears of the unknown are of course rich pickings for a writer of weird fiction. Within the stories presented here, the fear lies in the vast and crushing depths of the sea. This double bill concentrates on monsters and temples on the sea bed, as well as man’s inability to be responsible for his own atrocities.

The stories are told by characters performed by Michael Sabbaton. An accomplished actor in a seamless production, using simple techniques of sound scape and lighting to create an eerie and often jumpy dramatic effect.

The Call of Cthulhu follows a plethora of characters as they piece together a horror story of ancient rituals and the rumours of the slumber of a huge aquatic monster controlling or torturing their minds. The soundscape here really adds to the story as the monster’s temple is described as of a green colour which you can hear as well as see. Sabbaton’s recreations of Lovecraft’s characters are convincing and engaging, drawing us in to want to delve into their experiences and how they are connected.

The Temple, which we were particularly impressed by, is a tale told by the last survivor of a Germen U-Boat- Captain Karl Heinrich. Here, in his broken vessel, the captain of nothing, he waits to die. The stench of his crew, murdered by him, are his company and the horrors beyond the boat waiting to devour him.

This has come to pass since he had his crew blow up the British freighter SS Victory and one of his officers- Klenze- stole an ivory pendant from a dead sailor’s neck. Tinged with his madness and knowing his death is imminent- he cannot be trusted to piece together events and since all the crew’s meanderings- which he tells us of- are marred with post-traumatic stress, fear and near suffocation, their thoughts on what the ivory carving is are also untrustworthy. But this dubious realm is where fear and paranoia lies. No one can be sure of another man’s visions but clearly the vessel would have had a different fate if Klenze hadn’t stolen the ivory pendant which began the crews hysteria and eventual mutiny.

Sabbaton presents the captains demise and horror so that we feel his choking isolation. Unable to have anything else to pre-occupy himself with his imminent fate and the terrible account of what happened to the crew are all he has left and so he is lulled into contemplating this other being responsible for the wreckage and carnage, not himself. Or just as easily, from the accounts of mass hallucination, it could be the influence of a monster from the depths. I am inclined to believe though that Heinrich is as much of a monster and so we feel his torture at the hands of the unknown is justified.

A great production, not just for Lovecraft fans but for anyone who enjoys horror and ghost stories.

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