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Ghost Stories

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by Catherine Stobbs (subscribe)
I'm an actress and freelance writer living in North London
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I am an avid theatre lover, and would never say no to a trip to the West End, especially when someone else has bought me the ticket. So when I friend of mine said she had a spare ticket I dusted off my dancing shoes and prepared to sing along, hoping I would get back on the tube, a few hours later, still bopping away to myself.

How wrong I was!!

She had tickets, not for a feel-good musical, but for 'Ghost Stories' currently at the Duke of York's Theatre in the West End. I have passed the theatre before, and noted the warnings, 'the most terrifying thing you will ever see', 'enter if you dare', etc, I was never one for Ghost trains, so it did not really register in my brain.

As soon as we entered the theatre the terror began. The entire theatre was draped in cobwebs, darkness, there were broken doors, lights, a very eerie soundtrack with the occasional scream, and a sign hung over the exit stating:

'You are one of the 120,000 people who left here screaming'.

Okay, so as a person with a seriously over-active imagination, I already wanted to go home! I took solace in the toilets where everything was still brightly lit, but I knew at some point, I had to go into the theatre!

As we entered the main theatre, there was similar decor, the lights were so dim the ushers used torches to help with seating, and to our absolute terror we found that we were sat on the front row, we took the first opportunity we could to move back a few rows. The front row is just far too close for comfort!

The stage set up was simple, we were actively involved in a lecture, and the lecturer was chatting to us about Ghost Stories.
His theory is that sightings are nothing more than an accumulation of, anxiety, upset and other strong emotions or factors like a lack of sleep, or major mental stress. This is all well and good, and we were lured into a false sense of security by his banter, but I know at some point he is going to tell us the Ghost Stories and already I have my scarf wrapped over my face.

So it began, the Ghost Stories he tells are those that he has found difficult to analyse, that have shocked him, it starts with a simple tape recording (if you have ever seen the 'Sixth Sense', you will understand why I was already edgy). The tape recording is an interview with the 'victim' and the story then transforms into a real character on the stage, and the story unfolds.

Before I carry on, I have to say I cannot and will not reveal what it is that is so terrifying, first because you have to see it (which I did through the material of my jumper) to believe it, and also because they made us promise we would not tell, and I have a feeling they know where I live and will come and get me!

If I were to describe the scares it goes from, calm, scream, calm, scream, calm to absolute chaos. You are told on entering that there is no interval, and if you run out screaming or wetting yourself you cannot go back in. This is because it would totally ruin the atmosphere, and it's true. When someone answered the question, 'Why are you here tonight?', 'Free tickets', it relieved a bit of the tension for people, like me, but I can see how the atmosphere could be spoilt for die hard horror fans.

The stage craft was simple at times, but it was the simple techniques that were most effective. At one point the only light on stage was coming from a torch held by the actor, he shone it at us, leaving us all the more disorientated, and wondering what on earth it was that was in darkness on the stage. I have to say, I could not fault the acting. Little tricks, like waiting just that little bit too long before revealing things, added to the unbelievably tense atmosphere, and they looked just as scared as we did, so we felt almost like there was no escape.

I left feeling completely shaken up and I have to admit, slept with the light on!

It was the simplest things that were the most scary, there are a lot of little tricks that make you jump just before the big scares, leaving you even less prepared for the next scare, and completely on edge. The atmosphere makes you feel like you cannot trust anyone or anything, so you are constantly terrified.

It is definitely a must see, brilliant for a hardcore thrill seekers, and your curiosity will get the better of you, even if you are a scaredy cat like me!

I am definitely interested in seeing it again, purely because I know where the scares are, and I kind of like having that power over whom ever I take with me!

Mean? Yes probably, but it's a theatrical experience not to be missed, because you will never stop talking about it!

P.S It is not suitable for those under 15 years of age, or a nervous disposition

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Why? Too prove that it is scary, and I'm not just a wimp!
When: Currently running until at least October 2011
Where: Duke of Yorks Theatre, St. Martins Lane, WC2N 4BG
Cost: From 15
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