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Icarus Theatre Collective

At the Mountains of Madness


International Tour
Jan 2016 - Dec 2017
World Premiere in Association with South Hill Park Arts Centre

World Premiere


From the novel by HP Lovecraft
Starring Tim Hardy
Adapted by Max Lewendel & Tim Hardy

Icarus Theatre Collective brings you Tim Hardy in the first theatre adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s chilling masterpiece “At the Mountains of Madness.”

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four stars TV Bomb
five stars Ijo Pona

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Reviews



Five Stars Ijo Pona


The studio theatre was was full to capacity and I was clueless as to what to expect. I am no theatre regular - I have never pretended to be. So, what was I doing at the theatre? I was marking an event by treating me and my wife. The theatre is a treat - and one I wish to indulge in more often after the wonders of last night.

What happened in the performance? Well, I was clueless as to what to expect. On a base level it was one man having a conversation with his radio - on an other level it was a masterclass in acting with a thespian who held his audience in the palm of his hand as he conducted a one man play.

RSC actor and RADA faculty Tim Hardy was the sole performer on the night - accompanied by atmospheric lighting and audio props that made for a very atmospheric performance. A performance that will stay with me for a while. The images created were of bleak, compounded fear and an unknowable evil - The delivery of the performance really was first class - the theme of insanity was fleshed out as a group of Antartic explorers faced an unknowable foe.

As stated I am no theatre buff - I treat the theatre as a treat. And we were treated.

We were treated to a show that was true to the H. P. Lovecraft original and made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I experienced frisson during last night.

Roll on January for the next Lovecraft installment at Harrogate Theatre.

A Masterclass In Storytelling.
Tim Hardy held the audience in the palm of his hand.

Summary:
H. P. Lovecraft's "At The Mountains Of Madness" by Icarus Theatre. A single-man show that was a masterclass in acting for a very atmospheric performance that held the audience in the palm of his hand. The images and themes explored in the production have stayed with me.

 

Four Stars TV Bomb, Ken Wilson


A huge debt is owed to HP Lovecraft, the pioneer of horror fiction in the 1920s and 30s, who gained cult status only after his death at the tragically young age of 47. So ahead of his time was Lovecraft that he was forced to sell his fiction to pulp magazines like Astounding Stories. Without Lovecraft there may have been no John Carpenter, Stephen King, Guillermo Del Toro or Ray Bradbury to name a few.

At the Mountains of Madness - a touring production from the Icarus Theatre Collective - sees Professor William Dyer, the nominal head of an Antarctic expedition during which events take a disquieting turn. The story recalls the classic 1982 John Carpenter horror movie The Thing in which something indescribable happens to a bunch of men in an Antarctic outpost.

In this one-man show Dyer is played brilliantly by Tim Hardy (other characters are in voiceover relayed via crackly radio transmitter). When Lovecraft was writing, the Antarctic was largely undiscovered and was as alien as another planet. His descriptions of this otherworldly landscape, all purple light from the low sun and eerie whistling of Antarctic winds, caught the imagination of readers, especially when he overlaid dark, devilish imaginings of his own.

For the expedition, things go well until the explorers discover a geology unknown to man, odd star symbols and a strange ice city, not to mention dark deeds by a mysterious force. Although it's a one-man show (Hardy adapted the book for the stage with its director Max Lewendel) and we have to visualise what the weird city looks like, it's all superbly atmospheric. Expect goosebumps. Some thrilling music and lighting (Theo Holloway and Declan Randall respectively) help make this a little gem of a production (you can still catch it in Perthshire and St Andrews) that will have you rushing out to discover Lovecraft's books for yourself.

 

Hexham Courant, Helen Compson


One man show is nothing short of mesmerising

You wouldn't think the lost world of pulp horror fiction would transfer well to the stage, would you?

For one thing, how on earth do you configure the aliens or fighting machines not actually of this earth?

Or in the case of the century old melodrama, At the Mountains of Madness, give a presence to the 'old ones' inflicting such terror on a hapless bunch of research scientists in Antarctica?

But the answer to all those questions that RADA-cum-RSC actor Tim Hardy and director Max Lewendel must surely have been asking themselves as they began adapting H.P. Lovecraft's classic turned out to be quite a simple one.

For as Lewendel wrote: "The starting point for the staging of Lovecraft is the unreliable narrator.

"William Dyer, the narrator in At the Mountains of Madness, must look at us, in our eyes, lock our gaze, and expose not some CGI (computer generated imagery) terror lurking behind the walls, but the terror within ourselves, our own tiny place, alone in a universe vaster than we can ever comprehend."

And that's exactly where the Queen's Hall audience was taken last Wednesday - out of Hexham and into uncertain territory, where the fear of the unknown crushed us into tiny specks.

The wonderful, charismatic Tim Hardy held us in the palm of his hand as the maddened (mad?) Dyer desperate to warn off another scientific expedition about to set sail for Antarctica.

His own team of 20 professors, postgraduate students and mechanics had noticed the change in atmosphere as their two wooden, ex-whaling ships entered the ocean at 62 degrees south.

One of the students, the brilliant Danforth, who ultimately lost his mind due to the horror he witnessed, had quoted Edgar Allen Poe: ' ...myriads of grotesque penguins squawked and flapped their fins, while many fat seals were visible on the water, swimming or sprawling across large cakes of slowly drifting ice.'

Lyrical and stylish, this one man show produced by the Icarus Theatre Collective was nothing short of mesmerising.

Only Dyer and the broken Danforth had returned. At the end of the 70 minute narration, we weren't sure exactly what they'd seen, but we went home with just a hint of a warning ringing in our ears - Pandora's box had been opened.



Yockenthwaite, Vivienne Dunstan


Tonight my husband and I attended this play, which is touring around Britain and Ireland throughout 2016. We saw it at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews.

It’s a one-man show, and I had big reservations before it started about how well that format would work. By the end I still had some reservations, but generally was won around to the idea.

The staging is quite minimal. A table with a wireless and lamp on it, a chest, a chair and a lectern. In addition curtains at the back of the stage are lit from behind to give different effects.

The play closely follows the original Lovecraft story, presented as a plea by explorer Dyer, trying to prevent a new expedition to the Antarctic, recounting his own experiences, and why it must not be followed. As such the audience is placed largely in the role of the other expedition organisers. Generally this works well, though Dyer refers several times to having photographs that prove things beyond doubt. Of course we never see these, which works well enough in a written story form, but requires a bigger suspension of disbelief in a theatre setting.

One of the most effective artifices the play uses is to use the radio prop to present the words of other characters. At the start there is a bit of a scarily long list of characters - straight from Lovecraft’s original story - but it is quickly whittled down to the core single character on stage, Lake who explored the city before him, and Danforth who accompanied him. Lake’s story is presented directly through the radio, which makes sense because his messages were sent back that way. Danforth’s words are also presented that way, which makes less sense in story terms, but is surprisingly effective, and most people probably wouldn't question.

I was sitting directly next to the control booth for the special effects and so - unlike probably everyone else in the audience - could hear when keys were pressed to activate sounds etc, for example the radio voices or lighting effects. By far some of the most gripping parts of the play were when Dyer - in person - and Lake - through the radio - were interspersed, Lake presenting his reports and Dyer pleading with him not to do certain things. At times the timing got a little out and the voices spoke over each other, but these were rare slips. Generally this part of the performance was quite electrifying, and extended the performance well beyond just one actor, allowing him to interact with other characters.

Another highlight for me was the moment when Dyer has reached the strange city, and describes it. Even though this was presented without pictures, in words, there was a real sense of awestruckness communicated to the audience. Indeed generally I found the depiction of the alien city surprisingly effective, given staging restrictions. For example when the actor swung his torch around, echoing his actions in the massive room in the city, the effect was clear.

There were also some almost jump out of your seat moments, as the sound boomed out and spooked the audience. At these points it was probably better not to know the original story, to be more surprised. My husband was with me and had never read the original, but liked the plot, staging and was generally absorbed throughout. Though I think there was a slip near the end, maybe from the theatre, when modern pop/dance music crept in, possibly coming from outside.

For some of the performance I had my eyes shut, seeing how it worked as an audio performance, prompted in part by the ushers offering to sell audio versions of the play to theatre-goers. It did work, but I was also thinking about what the visuals added to the story, both over just the pure audio story, and to Lovecraft’s original. Again I’d have to highlight the radio scene, and its sense of desperation and dynamism, enhanced by seeing the action on stage, not just hearing the voices. This part was a very effective reworking of Lovecraft’s original structure.

The play wrapped up nicely after just an hour, and the actor received warm applause from the audience. I’d read in advance that it ran for two hours, but I was glad it was just an hour. It is quite intense, for both audience and actor. Any longer I think would have lost some power.

I am glad I went, and think that it is a worthwhile adaptation of the original. If you are new to the story it may work better, not going in with any preconceptions. But even those who know the story well could still get a lot out of it. I think the performance has intensity and emotion, which adds to the original text quite a lot. And even though it is a one-man show it is remarkably effective, and tells the story well.



John Breakwell


Great show tonight. Really enjoyable and evocative.

At the Mountains of Madness in Bracknell
Posted on January 21, 2016 by John Breakwell

I've now added HP Lovecraft to the list of authors whose books I have seen become theatre. He's in the good company of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaimen which indicates how short and niche that list really is.

Tonight was a one-man show of "At the Mountains of Madness" by the Icarus Theatre group. There isn't a lot of horror on the stage at the best of times so I decided to give the opening night a visit.

The cast was Tim Hardy, a RADA Director and RSC veteran, supported by recorded voices played through the on-stage radio set. For over an hour, Tim becomes William Dyer, the leader of an ill-fated expedition Antarctic expedition, trying to convince us of the folly of visiting the southern continent again.

As Tim is the only person on stage, he's the focus of the audience's attention the whole time without any breaks or scene changes. After a while, you realise how good the acting is when you notice how engrossed you are in the story. There are only a handful of props and all the events of the story are described, rather than displayed, so it's pretty much like a radio drama where the pictures are vividly projected in your head.

The group held a Q&A afterwards (as it was the first show) which went well. Theo Holloway (sitting between Tim and Max Lewendel, the director) came up with the idea of putting the book on the stage and managed the production, sound and music.

Tim was not at all familiar with Lovecraft's work, which he felt came in handy as he wasn't at all precious about cutting away at the script to get something that would work on the stage. This obviously worked as the play definitely still had the right feel. Lovely guy, Tim. Very pleasant to listen to.

 

Anna Lacey


If you are into fantasy fiction, then it is likely that you have heard of H.P. Lovecraft and that that his work is very highly regarded as one of the pioneers of sff/horror. As much as I love fantasy I have never been a fan of horror so Lovecraft was never an author I looked into.

However, after a few months of weekly board game sessions with G’s school friends (yes, I am ‘one of the lads’- I blame my older brother), I came to learn that the very long complicated game we played, Eldritch horror, was based on the works of Lovecraft. After downloading the complete works on my kindle for 99p (bargain!), the guys suggested that I start with At The Mountains of Madness.

I started reading almost immediately, but I ended up putting it down for a while as I read The Silver Tide. It wasn’t that the story wasn’t compelling, but the style of writing is very different from what I am used to which made it hard going. In fact, I still haven’t finished it.

However, as I was shopping a few weeks ago, I spotted a flyer for a performance of At The Mountains of Madness in Guildford. Theatre? Fantasy? General geekery? I was in. In the end 6 of our gaming group attended the performance at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre on Friday.

In the run up to the event I picked up the book again to try and read the story for background. I got a decent amount of the way through, but due to other obligations I only managed about 70% (can’t quite tell exactly as my digital copy is a compilation). Yet, I do think that this was the perfect amount.

Once we arrived at the theatre, we were all wondering what we were in for. The book is set out in first person interspersed with wireless transmission quotes, and the cast list only contained one actor. I admit that I imagined a rather boring soliloquy but Tim Hardy who played William Dyer was excellent. I am utterly in awe of how he managed to learn all those lines.

Rather than reading out the transmission quotes, they came through an on-stage wireless which made the performance feel authentic and gave depth to the characters that we otherwise would not meet. Other than this wireless, the stage was rather bare, with only a few props. The rest of the ambience was made with lighting and sound, both used very effectively.

However, my main criticism of the show was the audio. Though the sound effects were good, Hardy was not miked. As great as his projection was, if audio was playing at the same time it became extremely difficult to hear what he was saying. Also, at times he faced towards the wings which also left my ears straining to hear the lines. The theatre was intimate, but not so much that an un-miked actor was not left drowned out by the PA system. I do think this is very easily rectified by either reducing the volume of the PA or miking the actor. It is possible that as the show was only in Guildford this one night that the sound was only off for this particular venue, so please don’t let this stop you for going to see it.

One of the things I loved about the novel version is the wonderful description. Lovecraft paints a very vivid picture of the Antarctic wastelands and magnificent mountains. While some of this was lost in the theatre adaptation, they also cut down a lot of the repetition that bothered me while reading. I am sure that Lovecraft used it to build suspense, but when you are binge-reading it just becomes annoying.

As I mentioned above, I didn’t read to the end. However, as I wasn’t finding the book particularly scary up until this point it seemed like the perfect point to transition over to the play. I got all of the in depth background, yet the intense and thrilling ending became totally immersive watching it on stage.

We all left the theatre suitably impressed. I brought a programme which contains background information on Lovecraft and his work. After this we went back to the guy’s place to play the board game until 1am. Fun times! The game brought on a whole new meaning having seen the play. While you don’t need to be a board game geek to enjoy this performance, certainly if you enjoy the work of Lovecraft or general sff/horror then it is a must see. The Icarus Theatre Collective are touring with the show over the next few months so you have plenty of opportunity.


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