“It’s 1928 darling, anything is possible!”
And anything is indeed possible on a small stage in Prague, in the D21 theatre on Zagreb street (Záhřebská), where the expat theatre group Blood, Love and Rhetoric performs musicals based on the works of horror master H.P. Lovecraft. In English of course, the second language of this great expat city.
Our setting is Arkham Asylum on the West Coast of 1928 America – and the name comes not from the Batman comics but from the source they both share, the fictional town Lovecraft made up. Our story begins when FBI agent Ondrej Jablonski turns up to investigate some strange occurrences – but what makes this insane asylum unusual is mainly two things; the mental fantasies of all the inmates come straight from Lovecraft’s stories and the doctors use the method of drama therapy, where they first hypnotise the patient and then get him to act out the traumatic events that led him here, with the staff and even other inmates acting out the other roles in the inmates personal stories. Meanwhile nun Fanny Fiddler leads the house band, which regularly adds musical interludes when needed.
This setup creates great freedom for the play – you can do pretty much anything within those parameters – and technically every character is acting, or are they perhaps sometimes telling the truth through a supposed lie?
There’s a lot of sly references to the literature of the era, and among the staff there is a Dr. Gatsby and Federico Garcia Lorca himself. There are also clues that might finally clear the icebergs of the world of that infamous sinking of the Titanic, perhaps it was one of Lovecraft’s underwater monsters that was responsible after all?
This is an imaginative and truly enjoyable show – and an innovative way to play with the legacy of the old master of horror. And it’s just the first of a trilogy, all called A Lovecraft Musical – but also each adding their distinctive title, this being Devil’s Reef and the sequels The Call of Cthulhu and Dreamland, all being shown this winter in this little Prague theatre.
Text: Ásgeir H Ingólfsson