There’s a reason outdoor theatre in the UK usually takes place in the summer; one of those being the lighter evenings; the other being that the weather is usually unreliable at most other times of the year.
Thankfully, neither of these things mattered when it came to Slow Theatre’s latest production, Haunted Deepdale: The Ghosthunter’s Mark. While they hosted afternoon performances, it was probably best enjoyed once the sun had packed it in for the day, and if there was a chill on the air, well that only served to enhance the atmosphere.
The show consisted of a collection of spooky stories, written by Steve Keyworth. They were each performed by one of three actors, apart from the final piece which involved all three. The show was introduced and semi-compered by the company founder, Danny O’Hara.
The first story was told by the brilliant Vanessa MacAuley. Apart from delivering her mysterious monologue mostly earnestly, there was the odd mischievous glint in her eye at various points, and Vanessa helped heighten the atmosphere by playing some rumbling notes on the double-bass too.
For the second story, the audience was split into two groups, and the group I was part of had the privilege of watching Diane Webb weave her magic. Hers was an eerie tale involving a painting with a foreboding image which appeared to change as her character’s relationship with the artist soured. Diane pitched her performance perfectly, first of all regaling the tale like a mate from down the pub, but then morphing into someone altogether more paranoid, and one that you’d perhaps leave ranting and raving in the corner.
I have to say that Diane’s story didn’t really reach a satisfactory conclusion, and maybe that was the writer’s intention, but any minor gripes I had with the narrative were more than made up for with Diane’s delivery.
The final tale, where the audience were all reunited, was comfortably the strongest. It saw all three actors, the third of which was the commanding presence of Greg Powles, tell of a ghostly happening that occurred on the same site across three different time periods. The story was gripping and the manner in which it was told literally kept me on the edge of my seat, half-anticipating that something was about to make us in the audience jump.
While it was lovely to venture to pastures new, as the venue was rather out in the sticks, I was expecting more of a wow factor given that it had been specifically chosen to host the performances. However, the performance area was in essence just a small patch of grass encased by some hedging. Slow Theatre had erected a few gazebos (with some fairly sparse Halloween decorations) to ensure they didn’t fall foul of the weather. When they were lit up with lanterns in the evening though, they helped to create a much more eerie atmosphere, particularly during Vanessa’s opening story. I still couldn’t help feeling this could have been staged in a far more accessible area, however.
Overall though, it was very enjoyable, great to see more original writing being performed, and nice to see something a bit different done outdoors too. I’m interested to see what Slow Theatre Company has up its sleeve next.