As H.P. Lovecraft may not be a name with which everyone is familiar, an introduction may be in order: he is a hugely popular cult horror author, his most famous works being his Cthulhu mythos (about an ancient god who lives under the sea), which are now the basis for films, further books and very successful role-playing games. The Shadow Over Innsmouth is one of his better known works, and one the few that appeared in the novella format, about a town in Massachusetts that is populated by fish-human hybrids.

In Drowning Rock, Matthew Wood has taken many elements of Lovecraftian mythos, based heavily on The Shadow Over Innsmouth, and written, directed and produced a piece that suffers greatly for this connection. The reason is, sadly, quite simple: anyone who knows anything about Lovecraft will know exactly what's coming. I won't spoil it for people who don't, but it's all a bit too predictable for Lovecraft fans.

However, this isn't to say that this isn't a great show – there's a lot of fantastic work on display. The actors (who I'm unable to credit as there was no programme) are generally very strong, and do an excellent job doubling up as older versions of each other without any confusion. The use of shadow and lighting is inspired, as are the physical theatre touches that allow the simple set to become a variety of settings: the heavy influence of The Woman in Black as almost palpable, and there's nothing wrong with that.

The annoying thing is, if the script weren't so beholden to Lovecraft, I'd be singing its praises: Wood's setting of a remote lighthouse off the Scilly Isles is inspired, with large elements of the story tying nicely with local myth, legend and history, from myths of the underwater city Lyonesse through to local "wrecking" rumours. Much of the plot feels entirely fitting and ties beautifully, it's just the end where the Lovecraft connection crushes any originality out of the plot, and it's such an incredible shame.

There's also a lack of finesse to the production: while everyone works fantastically to achieve the horror and the shocks, a couple of small errors really get in the way. The main fault lies with the venue – the Camden People's Theatre is a lovely black box, but does nothing to shield from road noise, which ruins the remote-lighthouse concept a little. There's also a light backstage that makes counting the number of bodies that enter the space in a blackout abundantly clear – making the surprise appearance of the ghost/mermaid lose all impact.

I can't quite get over how much of a feeling of disapppointment Drowning Rock left me with. It has flashes of excellence, and I'd love to see more from Wood and his young company, but the show needs tighter direction and producing, and needs to jettison the whole Lovecraft angle: there's more than enough originality here that they needn't be beholden to a plot element that gets in the way far more than it helps.

Drowning Rock, at CPTChris Hislop reviews Drowning Rock at the Camden People's Theatre.3