Brighton Fringe 2017
The Other Realm Theatre Company brings Adrian Jameson’s adapted horror story writer H. P. Lovecraft’s Pickman’s Model – a story from 1926.. Designed by Frances Ross (particularly a well) with makeup by Weeze Cooper, with art supplied by Robin Stevenson, this is a classy compression of a set with period furniture, even telephone and camera sourced from the era.
Adrian Jameson’s adapted horror story writer H. P. Lovecraft’s Pickman’s Model – a story from 1926 – for The Other Realm Theatre Company. He turns up too as a ghoul. Designed by Frances Ross (particularly a well) with makeup by Weeze Cooper, with art supplied by Robin Stevenson, this is a classy compression of a set with period furniture, even telephone and camera sourced from the era.
The plot’s simple, and adapted for the stage by the simple expedient of having the broken Thurber, played – inhabited perhaps – by Dave Lee, on the phone downstage left to a friend Eliot, his silent interlocutor. He’s swigging much whisky enjoining Eliot to do the same. He then rises to meet the extraordinary Pickman, Anthony Arundell incising a shrouded painting stabbing with a short-hair badger centre stage. We don’t see what he’s painting. He operates an old land camera on occasion. Stage right is the well.
Thurber’s taken much pains to badger members of a painting club he frequents in Boston to supply the address of a painter they’ve almost ostracise, and finally do after his finally set of appearances, attracted by Thurber’s interest. Pickman dismisses them: ‘The only saving grace of the present is that it’s too damned stupid to question the past very closely.’
Pickman’s paintings are brilliantly delineated, but disturbing, in fact repulsive. He seems intent on depicting imagined beings, bipeds, with uncanny naturalism. Goya’s mentioned, but Pickman’s more disturbing still. The two acquaintances meet at his house and then at a studio in a once-grand derelict house hooked off a couple of ancient lanes with whole streets from the 1690s. What’s he doing with that proffered bowl of water?
Pickman rebuffs Thurber’s fears and hooks his interest by talking brilliantly Thurber finds himself an acolyte. Pickman’s most famous quote dispatches conventional artists of the Boston Club sort. ‘… only a real artist knows the actual anatomy of the terrible or the physiology of fear – the exact sort of lines and proportions that connect up with latent instincts or hereditary memories of fright, and the proper colour contrasts and lighting effects to stir the dormant sense of strangeness.’ Pure Lovecraft. Ancient beings dormant or emerging, whether in Boston or Antarctica, theme his work.
Lee as the lumbering older Thurber admirably conveys th judder of a man past his previous reason, and his period clothing’s a delight. Arundell’s accent – hierarchical /Bostonian gone raffish – is a more edgy affair, but he conjures an ideal spleen. Within their tiny compass the perform admirably.
What happens next isn’t necessarily predictable. What Thurber later finds – including a scrap of paper to send him nearly mad – is something you’ll need out find out for yourselves. It’s on suitably late, from 22.10-22.45. It’s worth a perfect night’s shiver and you’ll be needing that whisky.