“Asenath’s Tale,” an all-female reimagining of H.P. Lovecraft’s classic “The Thing on the Doorstep,” will return to the London stage at the London Horror Festival 1-3 November after a sell-out premiere at the London Lovecraft Festival in February.
What do you do when you discover your best friend’s dad is a body-snatcher … and he might be coming for you? In “Asenath’s Tale,” playwright T.L. Wiswell looks at necromancy from the point of view of Asenath Waite (Cathy Conneff) and her best friend Viola (Erin WIlson), two girls growing up in an everyday town in New England. But just how normal is Innsmouth? Asenath and Viola bond over their shared isolation, but Ephraim can’t wait for a new body forever …
“The Thing on the Doorstep: Asenath’s Tale” is on at the Old Red Lion (418 St John Street
London EC1V 4NJ) 1-3 November (9:30 PM) as a part of the London Horror Festival. Tickets (£12/£10) are available at https://www.oldredliontheatre.co.uk/asenaths-tale-the-thing-on-the-doorstep.html; further information (rehearsal shots, updates) are available on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/asenathstale/ and Twitter @asenathstale.
“I was excited about reimagining Lovecraft after doing a gender-switched “Mountains of Madness” in 2016,” says Wiswell. “Horror tends to have women as victims rather than protagonists, and I wanted to upend that. And Lovecraft, for all of his expansive imagination, really doesn’t write women.
“This story was really problematic because Ephraim goes on about how women aren’t suitable to be necromancers, and when I started trying to adapt it, I started thinking about what it would have done to Asenath to have grown up always being told by her father she wasn’t good enough. I mean, do you really want to have someone who steals people’s bodies to want yours? But still, when she was little, Asenath wouldn’t have known how bad her father was. So I started thinking about this and slowly built up a story about her and her life in a small town, and why she decided to go to uni, and there they were, Asenath and her friend Viola. The story arc parallels that of ‘The Thing on the Doorstep,’ but in place of the poet Asenath marries, I have focused on the tragedy of the girl who was told by her father she wasn’t good enough. And I’ve made what is very much a new and different story.”
Director Ralph Bogard says, “When I read this play for the first time the thing that struck me was not the scary, creepy nature of the story, but the relationship between these two women. And how far they would go for their love for each other.
“T.L.Wiswell has taken a story by a man about a man and created more depth and emotion by giving it to a woman he ignored in the original. As a fan of horror and maker of theatre, having the opportunity to direct a horror play certainly appealed to me, but to create such a complex character driven piece has been an additional thrill.
“Playing with gender stereotypes in a period setting only adds to the exciting challenges these women faced as they stared death in the face. Plus I can’t deny hearing the shrieks of men in the audience during the original sold out run gave my spine a nice tingle!
“I’m bloody pleased this piece gets to rise again as part of the London horror festival.”