I was excited when I learned a theatre company, Ororo Productions, was dramatising Lovecraft's classic tale The Dunwich Horror. I went to see it some weeks ago and watched the actors struggling against the terrifying spawn of The Old Ones and, unfortunately, a really dire script.
The play follows the plot of the 1929 story very closely. I am going to leave the plot out of this post as the Wiki does a good job of summarising it.
Much of the script is directly lifted from Lovecraft’s turgid text and puts the words into the mouths of the characters and a narrator. This is a massive problem for two reasons. As much as I love Mr 'Craft his prose is so purple that it is hard to read at times, let alone recite. It is no surprise, therefore, that the actors struggle with the cumbersome lines. In addition the language is utterly at odds with the supposedly rural low-brow country-bumpkin nature of the characters. The script makes the farmers and housewives, who are the focus of much of the tale, sound like the obscure 18th century poets which HP loved so much.
Dunwich is an odd choice of story to dramatise. It's cinematic and apocalyptic in scope, set in various locations and over a long period of time. A literal translation combined with no-budget (the set consisted of two stools and a podium and there was no sound or music) means that much of the action is simply reported to the audience. Such reporting is problematic in a play where character interaction is not the driving force (many are two dimensional) and events are the focus. The effect is both dull and silly. Given the lack of budget a more intimate story, of which there is no shortage in the Lovecraft catalogue, would have been better. Something more localised like The Colour Out of Space would have made a good choice.
The play's one redeeming feature was the depiction of Wilber Whately, whose presence is satisfyingly powerful and horrifying thanks to the talents of Rosco Brittin. Fans of Lovecraft will know Wilbur dies mid-way through the tale, and with him departed all hope for this troubled production.