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Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Behind Ghost Storyteller

Ghosts.  Let's just point out now - I don't believe in ghosts.  It's nonsense.  Sorry.  This is an opinion - based on factual evidence - that upsets people bizarrely.  I don't believe in unsubstantiated stories that smack of bollocks.  I really just can't.
There are lots of reasons why ghosts don't exist - they're mostly to do with how we're really credulous animals.  We'll believe anything and once we start believing in something we then start seeing it too.  We love creating patterns out of the world, even when they aren't there.  So, there are no ghosts, we're just seeing stuff because we've convinced ourselves that there's something spooky about the room we're in.
To put it another way - I believe in people getting spooked, not in actual spooks.
For those interested in a more detailed look at why the supernatural doesn't exist have a read of Paranormality by Professor Richard Wiseman.  This isn't necessarily the best book on the subject, but it is freely available (I saw a copy in WHSmiths the other day) so it is the easiest by far and a fairly easy read.
I've written before about how people have been a little angry at the absence of 'real' ghosts in the show, about my heckler.  But most people come out very happy - because they really come for the storytelling element - which I hope I don't disappoint on.  It's a bit like a wedding: are you there for the bride or the groom?  Are you there for the ghosts or the storytelling?  Most people, in a quick survey of the audiences this year - the fabulous Swindon audience and the ever dependable people of Sudbury - have come for the storytelling.  Ghosts do not figure largely in their lives, probably because they don't exist.
My work has a thread of darkness running through the centre of it.  Squeeze my plays and stories and there is a puckish instinct for naughtiness that seeps out.  Even when I'm writing an, essentially, harmless story for the Ghost Storyteller show, I can't help but stick the knife in, just a little bit.  However, I am always careful to draw it out again and reassure the audience that I didn't really mean it, just in time.  This comes as a real problem when people ask me, as they did in Swindon, is this show suitable for children?  At which I ask, how old?  Then get myself tangled in knots.
Children get taken to storytellers because parents think that's what they are for.  Unless you put a big 18 certificate on the poster it is impossible to stop them, and often unsuccessful even if you do.  At both tryouts for Ghost Storyteller there were children, aged around 11 years, some possibly younger.  Now, the piece (luckily) does not feature any swearing at all.  How this happened, fuck knows.  The piece is dense enough textually to make people work, but simple enough to stop people getting lost, so - whilst the young ones might get bored (and actually I'm never noticed a great deal of the poor attention span people speak so often of.  Nothing like being surrounded by attentive adults to make the little buggers pay attention.) the real fear is the content.  There are, carefully de-sexed sex scenes (featuring a few euphemisms and coy, coy mistresses) and also references to eating disorders and self harming.
Yoiks, I hear you cry.  But so far, not a complaint.  Possibly this is because they think these references whooshed over the heads of their little darlings like a deadline passing the late Douglas Adams, or because I made (for my sins, I'll go to Hell, if I believed for a second it existed) eating disorders into the centre joke in a ten minute section.  Just because something is serious, doesn't mean it shouldn't be lampooned.
The problem (and it isn't a problem, so far) is that I don't like to self censor.  I follow the logic of the story and the story sent me in that direction.  And it works - it gets a laugh every time.  So, am I sick, or is it the heartless bastards in the audience?
Speaking of audiences - both tryouts were very responsive.  Swindon laughed judiciously - I never felt that they needed calming down, just a good number of regulation titters.  The Sudbury audience were a little too enthusiastic in places, especially when I was trying to turn the mood to serious for a moment.  I did feel the sense of turning a corner just that little too fast, really holding that steering wheel hard and hoping for the best.  Seemed to work.
This is all a roundabout way of saying - buy tickets for Ghost Storyteller - it's rather good, if I say so myself.
And do bring children, so long as you don't mind my playing with their tiny little minds.
(Actually don't, really can't be bothered with children.  Young adults, that's okay, but they really need to have developed genuine people personalities and mastered toilet training.)

He looks a handsome devil...

Milk Bottle Productions Presents...
Ghost Storyteller
Comic Ghost Stories Written and Performed by Robert Crighton

Returning this Autumn / Winter following the success of the run last year!  Ghost Storyteller is a lightly comic selection of ghost stories written and performed by award-winning writer and performer Robert Crighton. 
From the ghosts of empty houses, to the personal ghosts we carry around us, this collection is a mixture of the fantastic and the “real”: including the tale of a poltergeist hamster and the pub that cried ghost.

Running Tuesday to Sunday from 27th November 2012 to 6th January 2013
Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm – Doors Open at 7.15pm
Sundays at 6pm – Doors Open at 5.45pm
No performances on Mondays, Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Years Day
Tickets: £12 / £10 concessions
Barons Court Theatre, “The Curtain’s Up”, 28A Comeragh Road W14 9HR
Nearest Tube:  Barons Court (Piccadilly/District Lines)

Box Office:  0844 8700 887
(Telephone box office hours 9.00am – 7.00pm Mondays –Fridays (excluding Bank Holidays) and 9.00am – 5.00pm on Saturdays.)

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