Dark and stormy night

No, I’m not talking about last night and the remnants of Hurricane Gonzalo, although I could easily be since things got quite lively about six o’clock this morning.

This is actually a theatrical ‘thing’ we went to on Saturday night at the Old Laundry Theatre in Bowness.  We’d seen it advertised a few weeks ago and thought it looked interesting, although thanks to a distinct lack of detail in the programme we weren’t sure what to expect.  All we knew was the title (A Dark and Stormy Night), the fact that it featured “sinister stories by eminent Victorians”, and that it would apparently involve “an experience for the eyes and ears”.

What we got, in its broadest possible terms, was two blokes reading out Victorian ghost stories to the accompaniment of appropriate lighting and sound effects.  That makes it sound very dull but it wasn’t at all.  For one thing, the stories speak for themselves.  Dickens’ ‘The Signalman’, H G Wells’ ‘The Inexperienced Ghost’, ‘The Ghost of the Blue Chamber’ by Jerome K Jerome, and M R James’ masterly ‘Whistle and I’ll Come to You’ are all classics of their time.  Back in the day, before television and cinema inured us to the shocks of a good ghost story, they’d have been frightening indeed.  Even today, with the addition of those sound and light effects and some good acting, they raised the hairs on the back of your neck.  It was all very atmospheric and jolly good fun.

Our only criticism was that the effects weren’t, at times, effective enough.  There were opportunities to add other sounds or lights which were missed, and the mesh cage the stage was encased in suggested it should have had something (ghostly images, perhaps?) projected onto it.  At the same time, having the actors read from bundles of A4 printed pages rather got in the way of some of their actions.  We’ll probably never know, but we were left wondering whether some of the effects (including the actors’ prompts) had gone ‘paf’ on the night.  If so, they soldiered on wonderfully well and provided a good and very unusual night’s entertainment.


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