Friday 17th May 2019 at Harrogate Theatre.
Gallery of Screams is a one man show offering two dark and twisted tales written by H P Lovecraft in the 1920s. It takes us back to times of tales around the fire and spooks conjured from words alone – a darkened room and a single voice to transport us to the dark worlds of the stories being told.
R M Lloyd Parry adapts and performs. He transposes Lovecraft’s work from text to expressive performance very nicely, demonstrating great skill when it comes to preserving the endangered tradition of oral storytelling. The stories are fully fleshed out but not over-long as is often the danger, allowing the stories to be tangible in detail without becoming onerous in running time. Both tales told look to the minds of artists – the impressionable minds of those with the skill to bring into being what most would struggle to comprehend. The two artists described are disturbed by strange and unknown external influences – enough to allow the grotesque and horrific to manifest in their work from artwork to music.
Our first tale, Pickman’s Model, has a traumatised soul telling the tale of being shown artworks so hideous they had to be locked away from the eyes of the general public. This tale is mixed in its quality, generally tense and thrillingly charged with all the skin crawling details described with painstaking terror, but at times the narrative shifts to over-convoluted details which give a sense of getting lost in a maze. The narrative itself however is well-spun with a suitably alarming revelation to close. Parry’s performance is an interesting combination of impressively communicated mania and an unsteady handle on taking on two characters. As our broken teller of the tale, Parry is convincingly rattled, but the transitions to playing Pickman the artist lack consistency even if the performance itself allows for distinction between the men.
The second tale carries much more weight and Parry shines as an excellent web weaver. In The Music of Erich Zann, Parry becomes a lodger with a tale of torment to share. With a matter-of-fact opening as if we are joining him in a cafe for a glass or two before an event, we set off together into this remembered experience of terror. He speaks of a musician in a shared lodging house whose music moved him to his core but harboured a strange ambiguity leading to a night of hideous discovery he’d have been better off without. And even having made some surface discoveries, the story ends without concrete answers, making the whole thing a very well crafted story of thrill and suspense.
Gallery of Screams is a show which pays tribute to the popular supernatural shiver-inducers of a bygone era. It feels nostalgic to sit before a storyteller who conjures entire worlds and guides us through the twists and turns of plot with only the craftsmanship of words and performance to lean on rather than the hubbub of modern theatre productions. The tales are not on an even footing in impact or quality, but this is certainly something worthy and relatively unique to see these days.
Gallery of Screams is presented by Nunkie Theatre and plays at Harrogate Theatre until May 18th 2019. You can find tickets here.