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Bring your Elder Sign

October 28, 2014

call_4_4x6-copy_OPTFor this year’s Halloween season The Visceral Company has recited fell rites forcing the stars to align. The rituals result, The Call of Cthulhu, a one man Play written and performed by the talented Frank Blocker.

CoC starts with a voice shouting a strange language into the darkness. Followed by a brief ritual of protection, this serves to set the tone for the rest of the show. The strange and unknown will become common place; we will be pulled into a madness from which there is no return. If you believe the Cthulhu mythos that is.

This rendition of CoC touches on the greather mythos, that is, the mythology constructed by H.P. Lovecraft is greater than any one story. To this end, the opening scene is retold by a cultist using voodoo dolls. The scene presented to us; The Hound (from weird tales 1926). The Hound ties into the Great Old Ones, and their cult, and iconography. The repetition of cults, particularly voodoo, or aberrant cults is a theme that repeats itself in the works of Lovecraft, and in this rendition of CoC.Cthulhu photo vertical

As I said before CoC is a one man Play, and this is where Frank shines. Not just as a writer, but as an actor. Frank’s ability to switch from character to character is seamless. Each character has a life of its own. It’s as if the spirit of each takes hold of his body. Frank’s body is merely the vessel for his own creativity.

A Cthulhu mythos story would be nothing without monsters though, and Dan Spurgeon (director) tackles this in a very Lovecraftian way. Shadow Pupetry, not only is shadow puppetry a great medium for Theatre, it’s perfect for Lovecraft. You don’t actually see the monsters, you see their shadow, that which is left in their wake. Rosie Santilena (lead puppeteer) brings a voodoo cult and their victims to life, as well as darker elements of the mythos. There is even a surprise at the end, one that will have you on the edge of your seat.

Call of Cthulhu photo (cropped)This version of CoC draws you in fully, and not just through Frank’s use of colourful characters. The set is striking. What you see on stage could really be the disheveled remains of an Anthropology professor’s study. Behind the study, we see a glimpse into the madness of his last obsession. What is shown to us, a cyclopean background that is home to an unspeakable horror. Beyond that, the veil of a shadow screen, which allows us to peer into the dark recesses of the memories presented to us through the CoC story.

The set, allows us to step into the memories of mad men. The Call of Cthulhu is after all, mostly an ex post facto recount of a disembodied mystery. The pieces of the puzzle are reconstructed by Francis Wayland Thurston, the surviving heir, and nephew to the famous Professor Angel, and anthropologist of some note. Francis retraces the steps of his uncle, and delves into a legend that either drives men to madness, or death.

As Francis delves into his uncles notes, he beckons us come with him. Which might not be a wise choice, but the temptation of hidden; any forbidden knowledge has always had a strong pull. In the end, will we end up like Professor Angel, or perhaps any of the other colourful characters we meet along the way. What will happen to our Narrator, Francis? To find this out we’ll have to risk the madness that is forbidden knowledge.

If you know The Hound, and Call of Cthulhu, there is nothing I could say to spoil this story. We all know the ending. What I can’t, no won’t do is go into the details of how Frank Blocker presents this story to us. To give that away would spoil this experience. I’ve alwayse felt the Theatre should be experienced, and when dealing with subject matter as palpable, as visceral as Lovecraft that holds true more than ever. Not only is Theatre, and Lovecraft an experience. Frank himself is an experience. He is a powerful force on stage, and one that must be experienced firsthand. I honestly couldn’t do him justice here.

I can’t go into details, as Lovecraft is all about suspense. To spoil that suspense would be a sin. What I can do is tell you that each moment of this Play holds you with rapt attention. Everything around you dissolves away as Frank’s dulcet tones wrap the noose of madness around your being. You’re experiencing Lovecraft, you know your doom awaits you at the end of the journey. Frank puts you at ease throughout the entire way. All the while maintaining a level of suspense needed to keep you alert. You become enthralled, and willingly follow the characters on stage to your doom.

Dan’s ability to draw the dissociated parts of the mythos together, using Frank’s fluid character transition, the set, sound, and puppetry, creates a master piece.

H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu is a must see. Just don’t forget to bring your elder sign, the little tree, or the eye with a flame in side. You’ll need one or both before the end.

H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu (written by Frank Blocker, Directed by Dan Spurgeon) shows at The Visceral Company thorugh December 7th.

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