Ghost Stories
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Ghost Stories

What do over half a million people worldwide have in common? They have all been scared senseless by the theatrical spectacle ‘Ghost Stories’. The show which was written by childhood best friends Jeremy Dyson (The League of Gentlemen) and Andy Nyman (Star of ‘Death at a Funeral’) first showed in late 2010 and broke every box office record at the Liverpool Playhouse before moving to the West End for a successful 13 month run. It has since received rave reviews from critics and fans alike.

Being long time fans of the horror genre, in particular films by acclaimed director John Carpenter, Dyson and Nyman set out to write a psychological thriller with all the elements of a great horror film but to be presented as a theatrical experience.

“I think there is something much more engaging and much more gripping about seeing horror or any kind of live performance unfold in front of you because we can see the characters, we have somehow got more of a relationship with them. We can see the sweat dripping down their head when they are in these scary situations. I guess another great thing about the theatre is that you can’t just change the channel if things get too scary, you are there for the show,” says Peter Snee, the shows touring director.

However, the most mysterious element of the show actually stems from the plot – which has been shrouded in secrecy by those who have seen it.

“I think what the show does incredibly well through the writing. What [Dyson & Nyman] achieved is a product that you don’t want to spoil. I guess it’s like when you have seen a fantastic film and it has a twist that you don’t want to spoil for your friends if they are going to watch it. I think once you have seen the show you are kind of part have an inner club and you want it to be a secret. Part of the thrill of the show is definitely finding out the secrets and enjoying it from the inside,” he says.

Snee initially signed up to be director after being impressed by the creativity and script of the play: “I have always been a fan of the horror genre, I have also always been a fan of pushing the boundaries of theatre and the theatrical experience for an audience. I actually saw the production a number of times in London and was hugely excited by what the show achieved in a live performance space. I was astounded at how close to a film experience it was while still having everything performed live on stage.”

After its hugely successful run of shows in England the production made its way to Australia performing a range of shows at the Sydney Opera House last year. Its effect on the crowd vastly ranged with extreme cases of people leaving the cinema, throwing up and even at certain shows in England having ambulances called to the venue. Ghost Stories manages to evoke these emotions whilst being completely blood and gore free, relying more so on the dialogue, sound and lighting to create fear.

When asked about why viewers are enticed to things that will scare us, Snee thoughtfully responded, “I think we as humans, are looking for something bigger, something deeper – a bigger thrill.”

“We like the scariest horror films and the highest rollercoasters. I think people like the way that an adrenaline rush can make them feel. It’s like the fight or flight reaction, which was intended to send us out of harms way and out of dangerous situation. But I feel that as the world we are living in has become safer we actually thrive off these feelings of adrenaline that horror can give us.”

After the success of the Sydney shows, ‘Ghost Stories’ is returning to Australia this time touring the country playing in inner city theatres as well some more rural shows. For this leg of touring they are bringing along the inclusion of BAFTA winning actor/writer/director Stuart Brennan to play the lead character. Brennan has played roles in horror films such as ‘The Innocent’ and ‘The Reverend’ as well as having extensive theatre experience.

Snee is very eager about being able to tour the show allowing it to reach broader audiences. “Sydney was the first production of the show and given the reaction from the audience we have decided to take it on tour and to smaller theatres around Australia, which we are very excited for. Because people can’t find out about the plot it’s a great opportunity for people who may not have had the chance to see the show in London or Sydney.”

He also noted that the shows capacity to scare might actually be increased in a more intimate environment. “When one person screams in the audience it sets most people off screaming. The energy that the audience brings to the show definitely helps shape the performance and each performance is unique in that way. The bigger audiences carry more fear because there is more of them, but the isolated feel of a smaller audience in a smaller venue definitely gives the show a much creepier hollow empty feeling.”

For those brave enough to witness the horror Ghost Stories will be showing at GPAC between Thursday the 14th-Saturday the 17th of July. The show also comes with a disclaimer of being unsuitable for those under 13 years old. It also advises that if you have a nervous disposition or are pregnant to heavily consider your decision to attend.

Written by Alex Callan

When & Where: GPAC, Geelong – July 14-17

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