A Pleasing Terror - Two Ghost Stories

M R James
Performed and produced by Robert Lloyd Parry
Nunkie Theatre Company New End Theatre
(2006)

Production photo

Every Christmas Montague Rhodes James, in his candle lit rooms in King's College, Cambridge, used to tell friends ghost stories. The Nunkie Theatre Company commemorates the 70th anniversary of his death by producing two of his ghost stories for the theatre.

The New End Theatre's past as a morgue for the New End Hospital must have its fair share of ghosts. That, together with its cosy size, provides the ultimate alternative milieu for the occasion. The Christmas tree at the far corner decorated with dimmed lights and four half-burnt candles should have warned the audience of what was to come.

The opening was somewhat dramatic. Sitting on an arm-chair was an initially inconspicuous figure, which gradually raises its torso and head which was shrouded by a black cloth. The accompanying music and this intriguing opening were promising.

Robert Lloyd Parry resembles the author he is enacting. Unfortunately, his attempts to vary his tone added little to the overall sense of almost total detachment from the narratives. After the interval Parry seemed more animated. It may just be that the second tale consisted of better humour than the first one.

The first story is set in 1883. A young Cambridge antiquary travels to a medieval town in the French Pyrenees, not far from Toulouse. There, in a crumbling old cathedral he discovers the dark side of a medieval manuscript illumination in Canon Alberic's Scrapbook. In the second story, The Mezzotint, a small figure appears in a topographical map received. There within a work of art (the essential supernatural element) a ghastly revenge is enacted before the eyes of the helpless and horrified museum curator.

Unfortunately there was nothing in these tales or the manner in which they were dramatised to kindle horror or excitement of any sort.

Until 6 January 2007

Reviewer: Rivka Jacobson