Ghost Stories with Bill Spectre, Thu 25th Oct 2018
Like it or not, Halloween is fast approaching, and I for one cannot think of a better way to see in the spookiest time of the year than with some tales of terror. Specifically, Victorian ghost stories in this case, for some added Gothic edge. I had high expectations going into Ghost Stories with Bill Spectre, mostly due to the reputation of Bill Spectre’s Ghost Trail. Nonetheless, my expectations were met and the night proved to be thoroughly enjoyable.
We were presented with two stories, The Judge’s House (written by Bram Stoker) and The Monkey’s Paw (written by W.W Jacobs), both of which were delivered with appropriately theatrical gravitas. Granted, it is not entirely unexpected that Bill Spectre would be proficient at telling ghost stories yet his performance was nonetheless engrossing. Both stories were related with typical Victorian restraint which still conveyed an air of building menace as each story crept towards its conclusion.
Equal praise should also be given to the set design. Cogges Manor Farm itself could have quite easily been the location of either of the Gothic tales with its draughts and wooden beams, and the atmosphere is further enhanced with some superb lighting. Throughout the performance, shadows play ominously across Spectre’s face and the walls and ceiling surrounding him. I even remember briefly believing that silhouettes of scuttling rats had been projected across the ceiling, before quickly realising that this was my imagination. Regardless, every aspect of the set design feels meticulously crafted to enforce an atmosphere of dread, and in this regard, it is entirely successful. As a final note on the location and set design, if you are offered a blanket I highly recommend that you accept the offer. Whilst the low temperature arguably aids the creepy atmosphere, it also has the unfortunate side effect of making you very cold and uncomfortable if you didn’t bring enough layers!
My only notable criticism isn’t even with the production but with the first story The Judge’s House. The narrative was frequently predictable and regrettably drawn out for longer than it needed to be, though fortunately its rather unexpected ending did redeem some of its issues. The Monkey’s Paw on the other hand is a true classic. If you haven’t read the story before then I would highly recommend Ghost Stories with Bill Spectre on this story alone as this is quite possibly the best way to experience this tale of fate and terror. Even if you do know the story, this performance is still captivating.
If you’re in the mood for some spooky ghost stories, then I recommend this event as a thoroughly enjoyable night out.