Squeak!

Photo by Chris Hibbs

Sarah Smellie can hear The Rats in the Walls.

We all know all those strange noises you hear in the middle of the night have a rational explanation. But at one point or another, we have all believed those noises were caused by brain-eating zombies.

St. John’s own overlord of terror, Dale Jarvis, has directed a theatrical adaptation of H.P Lovecraft’s 1924 short story “The Rats In The Walls” which is sure to fuel the darkest of your 4am beliefs.

The story is told by the scion of the Delapore family, who, after being tormented by the scurrying of rats in the walls, sets out to investigate their origins to discover an underground crypt littered with the skeletal remains of people his ancestors had feasted upon.

Yikes.

Dave Walsh, the star of the performance, has rendered Lovecraft’s original story into a 20 minute theatrical narrative to accompany the Shakespeare by the Sea Festival. It’s being performed alongside Edgar Allan Poe’s [equally spooky] “The Cask of Amontillado.”

“We wanted something that would go with Cask,” says Jarvis, “and Dave has an interest in HP Lovecraft, who was very much influenced by Poe.”

According to Jarvis, the name of the main character, Delapore, is Lovecraft making a conscious connection to Poe. In the actual story, Delapore changes his name back to its ancestral form, de la Poer.

“It’s a hidden little tribute to Poe that no one really knows,” says Jarvis. “Except horror nerds.”

The play consists of Walsh alone, recounting his blood-rific tale. The low, stone ceilings of the narrow vault allow even the smallest of sounds to bounce back to the audience. As he takes uncomfortable breaths as he describes his journey and rubs his hands together nervously, the quiet sounds provide an excellent, claustrophobic feeling that accompanies the madness that Dave succumbs to at the end of the story.

Walsh’s gradual withdrawal from the audience as he descends deeper into the memories of his discovery is cleverly choreographed, and as the audience watches the character become absorbed in his own terror, it adds another dimension to Lovecraft’s ornately-described scenes. It’s a fantastic, over-the-top story and they’ve done an exceptional job paring it down for the stage.

Shows are Sundays and Mondays at 8:30 pm from July 8th to August 20th. Tickets are 10$ at the door, Newman Wine Vaults. For more info, visit ­shakespearebytheseafestival.com

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