Providence (3 stars)

Providence

credit: Tom Figgins

A biography of a racist horror legend

Despite battling with one of the hottest rooms in the Fringe, Dominic Allen and Simon Maeder frequently conjure up a cold, dank and dark atmosphere in this biography of HP Lovecraft that is rich on psychological analysis and lighter on cheap scares. Beginning in laughter, Lovecraft is visited by the lively and egotistic ghost of Edgar Allan Poe. Slowly, Lovecraft's nastier opinions unfold, and are related to the horrors that would become the Chthulu Mythos, a fictional universe shared with his literary successors based upon his writings.

Lovecraft's racism is well known, and Providence does not flinch from Lovecraft's petty arrogance and hypocrisy. Racing through his eccentric childhood, his attempts to become an amateur journalist, his marriage and abortive travels away from his hometown, Allen and Maeder draw explicit links between the life and work. Oppressive lighting and increasingly disturbing visitations from Lovecraft's library of heroes shed the lighter tones of the first scenes, and, rather like Alan Moore's recent graphic novel of the same name, suggest that the Chthulu Mythos reflects – or anticipates – the chaos of the late twentieth century.

The tone is sometimes uneven: the first scene does not set up the chilling atmosphere that follows, instead it promises laughs like a musical. Yet towards the end, the structure becomes dream-like and delirious, conjuring the unsettling aura that Lovecraft manages to surround his stories with, even despite his terrible writing style and self-conscious pomposity.

Assembly Rooms, until 25 Aug (not 13), 5pm, £10–£11 (£9–£10)

Providence

  • 3 stars

Dominic Allen and Simon Maeder 'A richly theatrical hour of madness and the macabre' ★★★★ (Stage). 'A masterclass in physical comedy' (ThePlaysTheThingUK.com). Life is a hideous thing. And Lovecraft's was no exception. Prepare to be amazed, terrified, and driven insane! Dominic Allen (Belt Up Theatre, A Common Man) and…

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