ghost stories, arts theatre

Ghost Stories

I will start by saying that I don’t want this review to be a spoiler for anyone who is intending to see the show. So, I will be vague where necessary, and ‘keep the secret’!

I love being scared.

I mean I really, really love it. I think that’s why I no longer go to theme parks, as it was never the adrenalin rush of speed that did it for me, it came from fear that I might fall out. These days, you’re so tightly strapped into everything that there’s no fear there. Well, not for me, anyway.

I love scary films, but not the stupid Hollywood ‘horror’ ones which are mainly slasher-types. I’m usually a sucker for the J/K-Horrors where the menace is always just out of sight. They tend to really ramp up the tension effectively – and that’s what fear is, the feeling that there’s something bad about to happen. Saying that though, I thought The Conjuring was pretty jumpy – there was one part
where I hid my face in my hands in expectation.

I keep meaning to go and see The Woman In Black as everyone tells me that’s dead scary, but it’s a bit like the London Eye. It appears to be there forever, so I keep thinking “Oh yeah, I’ll do that one day”, but there’s no pressing urgency. I’d seen the posters for Ghost Stories and heard great reviews, so when there was a special offer on the tickets, I quickly booked mine and looked forward to it for weeks!

On Tuesday, I took my seat and chatted over-excitedly with my mate about what we might see from the music and the clues on and around the stage.

It didn’t start how I was expecting, and considering I had purposely not read any in-depth reviews and there was a lot of hype around ‘keeping the secret’ of Ghost Stories, I did wonder whether it was all a front for something else. I couldn’t work out whether this disappointed me, or whether actually it was better than what I had been expecting.

Just as I was getting to a point where I would have had to make my mind up, it all changed, and we were thrust into the main part of the show.

There is so much I can’t fault. The acting was superb, considering there are three monologue heavy main narratives as well as the overall ‘star’. Stand outs in a small but fantastic cast were the main character Paul Kemp and Philip Whitchurch (next-door neighbour Tyler from My Hero if anyone used to watch it) as a night watchman / security guard.

So, the acting was great. The staging was brilliant – really cleverly done. The lighting and sound were spot on, really atmospheric. The script too was well thought out, and the ‘stories’ were just as spooky as I was hoping for, and yet sounded so natural coming from each of the characters.

So why am I so obviously not raving about it and telling everyone “OMG GO AND SEE IT!!”?

Because they didn’t know when to stop. hey had it all so perfect. At each ‘scare’ point, I had felt the tension build, been made to jump most agreeably. I’d had points where I expected something to happen, and then they hadn’t done the obvious. Brilliant! And then they went one step too far, and in an almost cartoonish manner.

Every single time, I was made to feel as if I was sitting in a crap local travelling fairground Ghost Train in the 80s. Or watching an episode of Scooby Doo – yeah, maybe even one of the ones when they introduced bloody Scrappy too! And that was SO disappointing. It could have been so much more.

My friend was even more scathing about it, but I can’t bring myself to completely slate it. It was 95% right as far as I could see, it was just that the 5% of wrongness was such an important 5% that it completely negated the 95%

However, don’t let MY feelings on it dissuade you from seeing it as I have to say, we appeared to be in a minority in the audience. We were in the circle, and there was a LOT of hysterical screaming and prolonged nervous laughter going on in the stalls – especially near the front. I don’t know whether it was full of middle-aged women (although I guess I’m officially a middle-aged woman myself), or
whether they were drunk, or whether there was a mass of giggling schoolgirls below us, but it obviously seems to appeal to a lot of people.

Such a shame. Such a disappointment for me. But saying that, I have tried to forget the 5% and a few days later I keep remembering snatches of the good bits. And they were good.

the restorer – amanda stevens

The Restorer

As it ‘that’ time of year, I was asking in various places if anyone could recommend a good spooky read.  It’s very hard to find a book that gives me a thrill – something atmospheric and other-worldly.  In fact the only recent book I can think of is The Drowning Pool by Syd Moore.

This one was recommended to me by someone in a group on Facebook.  I was slightly concerned as it is the first in a trilogy, and I was worried that there would be no conclusion.  But, I thought I’d give it a go, as it was a recommendation 🙂

Set in South Carolina in the modern day, Amelia Gray is a cemetery restorer.  This may seem a rather morbid choice of career, but this hasn’t been chosen by chance.  She is following in her father’s footsteps, and is drawn to this kind of work as, like her father, she can see ghosts.

Unlike others that have this gift in fiction (I’m actually thinking Ghost Whisperer etc), Amelia has been instructed to ignore them and pretend that she hasn’t spotted them.  If she acknowledges their presence, and they know that she can see them, they will haunt her, and drain her energy.  She can be safe on hallowed ground (like that of a cemetry).

However, when a the body of a new murder victim is found buried in the graveyard that she is working on, she is introduced to Detective John Devlin, and the rules that she has lived by to protect herself are thrown out of the window.  Devlin himself is haunted, although he seems to have no idea of this…and Amelia finds herself inexplicably drawn to him.

I loved this book.  It is beautifully written and atmospheric and modern, even though it retains something of the mystery of traditions thanks to some of the older characters within the book.  Amelia is a wonderful feisty and yet wary young woman, so although she has a bit of fight in her, she has also seen more than most, and so has a reason to be scared of the dark – and at  twilight, the time when ghosts step through the veil.

Even just the way that is described was creepy.  And the touch of the ghosts fingers in her hair sent shivers down my spine.

There’s no out and out gore, not a huge amount of peril, but that underlying danger, something not quite explained and seemingly rational yet supernatural reasonings behind some of those ‘odd’ feelings that we all have from time to time certainly made for a good spooky read.  Definitely will be tempted by the next in the trilogy.

the little stranger – sarah waters

The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters

I must admit, I was quite disappointed with The Little Stranger – I think I was expecting better things from it.  I don’t really want to give too much away as people may be wanting to read it – and I hate knowing endings etc, so I warn you there MAY be a couple of little spoilers in here.

It was written well , and the characters seemed real enough, but real as they were, they annoyed the hell out of me. And nothing really seemed to happen, which frustrated me beyond belief! I kept thinking “Oooo, it’s going to get good now!” and then it didn’t, it went back to ‘blah’.

The story centres around a society family in a Warwickshire town shortly after the war who have had to live with various traumas and upsets and are slowly being brought down in their crumbling mansion that they are unable to maintain – it was a gothic style but not particularly spooky (although I was so determined to finish it one night that I read it in bed til 2am, and then cos I’m short-sighted, started imagining all sorts in the shadows of my room – but that was more my overactive imagination than the actual visualisations of the book!)

The story is written from the point of view of their doctor, and one of the most annoying things was that nothing ever happened when he was around – it was always told as him hearing the tale from someone else…which made me wonder whether it was actually him that was ‘haunting’ the house a lot of the time, although I hope that would have been hinted at towards the end at some point.

I sped through the book, and finished in 2 or 3 days (which is very quick for me!) but a lot of that was through sheer frustration, wishing for an ‘event’ in the story.

I found it a bit like the Lost of the literary world. Well made, great back story, real characters and hints of ‘goings-on’ but eventually just disappointing and a completely missed opportunity to be something fabulous!

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