Review: "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" at The Old Red Lion Theatre
Tip number one for going to watch spooky theatre in a pub: order a beverage in a bottle.
Halfway through The Shadow Over Innsmouth at Angel’s Old Red Lion Theatre last week, my glass of wine (which had been slopping perilously as I chortled my way through Hidden Basement’s masterful production) ended up mostly in my lap as the main moment of suspense made me jump. So, now you know.
Wine-stained knees aside, I could not characterise my evening as anything other than a really good time. Here’s why.
The show is an adaptation of a story by horror fiction king HP Lovecraft. It tells the tale of a young writer – Robert Olmstead – who decides to take a detour to the port town of Innsmouth, on a trip of the coast. What he witnesses there will change him forever - much to the confusion of his well-meaning fiancée.
This fiancée (and pretty much everyone else) is played brilliantly by Claire Matthews - Olmstead by Philip North. Together with Peter Davis, they formed Hidden Basement Productions in 2012 and became the driving force behind the London Horror Festival three years ago. Now the country’s largest festival of horror in live performing arts, it aims to be “a celebration of the ghoulish, the thrilling, and the downright macabre, through the various mediums of live performance”. And The Shadow over Innsmouth was a pretty damn good introduction to it – we’ve already bought tickets for another show next week – but more on that later.
The real selling point of the show, for me, was the actors. Matthews was convincing as both Olmstead’s baffled bride-to-be, Sonia, and as an array of – frankly – creepy old men, while North’s “I-am-undergoing-some-serious-mental-trauma” faces were a delight and made the audience giggle every time.
A close second, however, were the props. It’s pretty rare that props themselves are commended in a production, but they were fantastic – especially the puppets, which I found genuinely disturbing. There was a sophisticated economy behind every element of the staging – each prop and piece of set had been carefully chosen for maximum effect. Two words: pint glass. (I don’t want to spoil anything, so you’ll just have to hope they bring this show back next year.)
And the Old Red Lion Theatre was a revelation. I could not have picked a better spot for performances of this nature – intimate and wonderfully lit, the atmosphere was such that each audience reaction was palpable. Which made it even more embarrassing when I doused myself in Merlot – but that’s beside the point.
Yup, we’re smitten – we loved the skill, the storytelling, the setting, and the sound and lighting and – with Hidden Basement at the helm, we are confident the rest of the shows at this year’s festival will be of a very high standard indeed. So, we’re off to the wonderfully-named “House of Nostril” next week. Why don’t you join us?