Icarus Theatre Collective at the Cramphorn Theatre, Chelmsford
HP Lovecraft's cult classic from the early 30s is a natural for the stage.
It's narrated in the first person by geologist William Dyer, reluctantly reliving the horrors of the past in order to dissuade others from following in his snow-tracks to the white, dead world of the Antarctic.
Other voices are quoted. In this uncomplicated adaptation they emanate from the old-fashioned wireless receiver, part of an evocative soundscape with music by Theo Holloway.
Icarus Theatre's hour-long version trims the text of some of its worst excesses, concentrating on the narrative and the mounting sense of buried horror. There's little to distract from the voice and the visions it conjures up: the shimmering medieval castles and the towering cathedrals of the ice cap, the arcane animals, the sculptures left by the Old Ones [Lovecraft's Elder Things], the giant eyeless penguins.
Dyer is played by Tim Hardy, who adapted the piece with director Max Lewendel. His compelling voice, often subdued and broken with emotion, skilfully draws the audience into the tale.
The show is impressively polished technically, with the timing of the sound and light impeccable. The setting is simple, with a lectern, a chest, a chair, a lantern and the radio, and on the floor, a pentagon of Persian rugs …
We see the terrors only in our mind's eye, but who needs CGI with such a captivating story-teller ?