Horror, HP Lovecraft, Theatre

Of Nyarlathotep and Azathoth

The Haunting of Exham Priory‘, the play that I’ve been working on with Rumpus Theatre Company finally opened on Tuesday of this week. After so much work it was a real thrill to see it all come together. Although I’d been there for the first rehearsals, I hadn’t seen the dress rehearsals so I was seeing it come together for the first time, just like the rest of the audience.14585681_10100469008003010_283630898_o

I’d like to think Lovecraft would have been pleased with what we did, and I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to cling to his coattails with my cold, cadaverous grasp.

I sat on the back row for the first show, just so I could more easily take in the audience’s reactions. I was pleased to see the light-hearted moments get laughs and the twist in the final scene receive a ripple of shocked muttering, just as I’d hoped. Interestingly though, some parts that I thought would get big laughs just got a murmur, while lines I considered throw-away gags got a big reaction. I sometimes suffer a similar problem with Baby001 – some episodes that I think are the wittiest receive the fewest likes, while the ones I am least happy with get plenty of comments and shares. Talking to the director afterwards, he observed that you never know where and when an audience will laugh at a script, and it’ll vary from performance to performance. I’ll be seeing the show again later in the run, and I’ll be intrigued to see how the response varies again. But for now, I have released it to prosper on its own, like a Night Gaunt flitting away into the dark.

So, to reiterate, I was 100% pleased with how everything turned out on opening night. I was also pleased to be vindicated regarding my concerns over a certain aspect of Lovecraft mythos!
In the original text for ‘The Rats in the Walls’, Nyarlathotep receives a description that is very similar to the description normally reserved for Azathoth, an entirely different deity in the Lovecraft pantheon. This is literally the only time – to my knowledge – that Nyarlathotep is described this way in the canon. So I was left with a choice; preserve the original description and risk some Lovecraft fans believing I’d made a mistake, or change the description which otherwise fits beautifully with the story?
I mused aloud to my wife about this as I was writing. “What? No-one will notice that!” she said after I explained the problem. I wasn’t so certain but decide to preserve the unusual description of Nyarlathotep.

Sure enough, post play, one of the first questions I was asked by a fan was whether I’d got Azathoth and Nyarlathotep confused. I laughed and tried to explain the issue, but it’s not so easy to convey in a busy theatre lobby.

Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I think Lovecraft would be pleased with that, too.