Praise for Twisted Tales Events

'In the past few years Twisted Tales has become a major force in the promotion and appreciation of horror fiction. As well as putting on author readings and signings at bookshops it has expanded into organising larger events, bringing authors and critics together for discussions of the field. I've been involved in quite a few of both and have found them hugely enjoyable and stimulating - I believe the audiences did as well. May Twisted Tales continue to grow and prosper! If you love the field, support them! I do.' - Ramsey Campbell

‘Twisted Tales consistently produce well-organised events for writers and readers of horror. What really distinguishes Twisted Tales for me is the intelligent themes and investigations they pursue, and the high quality of the discussions they always stimulate. As an author I've been invited to three of their events and have been pleasantly startled, to near shocked, by the attendance levels - two out of three were even sold out. I salute anyone who contributes so much to the literary and cultural life of horror fiction.’- Adam Nevill

'Twisted Tales events are wonderful... a great way of promoting 21st century horror fiction. Supported by Waterstone's Liverpool One and really well organised, Twisted Tales brings together established names in the genre as well as new voices and of course readers. Looking forward to much more to come...' - Alison J. Littlewood

Friday, 29 November 2013

Michael Sabbaton interviewed by David McWilliam

Michael Sabbaton is an actor continually fascinated with the workings of theatre and performance. He has been an academic, scenographer and designer as well as a performer and creates compelling and engaging characters living in worlds both familiar and strange. As an actor and voiceover artist, he has worked in a diverse range of performance fields from physical theatre to classical Shakespeare, straight drama and site specific performance.

Since 2010, and alongside other work, he has been developing, writing and producing his own brand of Dark Theatre currently in the form of one-man adaptations for the stage. Selling out to audiences including The Lowry, Salford Quays and Harrogate Theatre, it is in this work that he is currently focusing, pushing the limits of one-man performance through character, sound, music and action.

For more information, reviews, reels and photos visit

DM: As a playwright and actor, what attracts you to adapting Lovecraft's work for the stage?
MS: I think for both the playwright and actor in me, the attraction primarily lies in vastly exercising the imagination across the interpretation of the source material, the business of creating the production and the encouragement of the audience in extending that imaginative process in the moment that they experience the show.

I’m interested in character and theatre, which for me translates as focusing in on moments of rhythm, space and action. This is from both an acting and audience point of view. Everything becomes a character on stage. All moments. All space. All scenographic elements. All are performers and all must feel through those moments so that the audience discovers and lives them at the very same time. It’s so important. Everything is part of the action, most especially the audience.

That’s what I think theatre is, essentially, and with the Lovecraft work we have a great opportunity to really rev up that theatre engine to see how it ticks over. This doesn’t mean racing away with it at all... in fact the opposite. We need to let those moments grow... we need to see the thoughts of the characters and make our own observations. In this way we see beyond the surface level of ‘the horror’ or ‘science fiction’ and into something much deeper, which in turn makes the horror even more intense.

I just think Lovecraft’s work is full of great character questions to ask and this is what draws me to it as an actor too.

DM: Are you influenced by interpretations of Lovecraft’s cosmic horror in fiction, film, and/or games?
MS: Not really. To be honest, I just like to take each story as it comes and work from inside that story itself. I think that everything you need to know is in that story. The only other ingredient is your own imagination. For me, this simplicity is the key.

DM: Your adaptation of ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ is an impressive production in which you play a number of characters relating fragments of an unfolding tale of madness and despair. What are the advantages of a one-man production and are you interested in one day putting together a larger show featuring a cast of different actors?
MS: Well, each show is different. With Cthulhu, what interests me is having multiple characters coming out from a single main one; in this case, Francis Thurston. It’s specifically written from this point of view so to have other actors in this show would be wrong. In terms of working with a larger cast on a future project, I am always open so we shall just see where the future leads us.

The advantage of producing one-man shows from a creative point of view is that you are always challenged and kept on your toes! It’s a great way to keep pushing yourself and to ask all those interesting questions.

DM: I think it is fair to describe The Statement of Randolph Carter as an uncompromising representation of Lovecraftian cosmic horror. Why do you think that there is now an audience for this kind of horror theatre?
MS: As I said, above, I think that it’s the characters that make it so. The theatre is a very intimate gathering point for human beings. We see ourselves through the horror. A cosmic or Mythos-based horror is a human fear manifest to an nth degree – it’s interesting to see how they ‘cope’ with it. The Statement deals with a rising ‘manifestation’ but it’s also interesting to explore an already present one. In my stage version of Cthulhu, we have the character of Francis Thurston living with the unthinkable terror night after night and there never is any resolution, no happy ending.

I also think these are great stories; exciting ‘epic’ journeys, which still have an intimate connection with the reader and audience. I am excited to work in this field, with this material... it makes me think and wonder.   

DM: Lovecraft's 'The Statement of Randolph Carter' is considered to be one of his most ambiguous tales. However, by using Abdul Alhazred to introduce the narrative and link its occult horror to the Outer God Yog-Sothoth, you explicitly situate it within the Cthulhu Mythos. How do you think this change alters the story?
MS: Well, for me there is some connection. I love the ambiguity and I hate spoon-feeding too. Sometimes I am criticised for this but I think that an audience is intelligent enough to piece a mystery together. They can find their own way, etc.

The decision to include Abdul as a prologue to the piece was a difficult one and I was always ready to pull it if I felt it didn’t work, but I think it does now and introduces a parable-like structure for the piece. Knowledge and Wisdom: two volatile brothers who sometimes battle to be heard above the other. I think this is a familiar tale we hear and battle with ourselves every day in the news, living on this planet! I also think that there are justifications for the inclusion in the ambiguity of the original tale itself. The ‘book from India’ that Harley Warren receives is an interesting point of reference. Is it some translation of The Necronomicon? If so, perhaps it is a flawed translation... one that has elements missing? Who knows but I think this helps connect the work a little. Lovecraft makes these suggestions so why not use them? Also, the fact that Harley Warren is such a clinical kind of guy at the start, very controlled, with a mind that is very structured and ordered in what it wants to achieve, means that the book that never leaves his side is almost like an embodiment of that reliance on his own perfectionism – a reliance on facts, research, commitment, work, etc. But what if there was a flaw in his plan? What if the book was wrong? What happens when this world comes crashing down and it’s too late to change tack?

Stanislavsky famously uses a phrase in his acting teachings, which is known as ‘the magic if’. It’s all about opening the imagination up given certain stated circumstances in a character’s life. We may not know everything, but we will know the surrounding circumstances. These help us to consider what may happen ‘if’ we make certain decisions. Here, ‘the book from India’ might be considered as such a given circumstance and if we then allow ourselves to say, “Well, what if it was a version of The Necronomicon in some kind of translation?”, then this opens the door to answering part of the mystery to what Harley Warren is doing and unlocks down in the depths of the earth. For me, this makes the story more solid. The ambiguity is still there. There is still mystery, but the actions, the thoughts and the intentions of the characters become clearer and this (I think) builds a better relationship with the adaptive work for the stage. It’s also fun!

DM: What are your plans for the future in terms of your Lovecraftian productions, both old and new?
MS: Mmmmm. Well, I always have loads of ideas but the real issue for me is funding them. Being totally independently financed is a struggle and funding is highly competitive so it is a struggle to keep going. What is encouraging, though, is the response that the audience give back. That spurs me on so I will keep trying.

In terms of ideas... a few on the shelf are Nyarlathotep, Dagon and The Shadow Over Innsmouth, Eric Zann and perhaps more from Abdul Alhazred and The Necronomicon!

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