One of my favourite ghosts from 'Gorgeous Gerald and the Ghost'. You can probably tell which one is the ghost (if you can't my costume design has failed)
One of my favourite ghosts from ‘Gorgeous Gerald and the Ghost’. You can probably tell which one is the ghost (if you can’t my costume design has failed)

What is it about ghosts? Why are they so fascinating on stage? Personally, I just love the murky, shady world of the unknowable land of the dead. Putting them on stage is a challenge I relish. They crop up rather a lot in my plays as well, so that’s just as well really. Ghosts, it could be said, are neither in the land of the living nor the dead. The apparition/ghost/shade hovers between two worlds. When conditions are right we can see from one place to another – a glimpse into the land of the dead from the land of the living. It’s what All Hallow’s Eve is all about – the veil is thin .. the dead can arise and be seen. In could also be said that that’s a load of twaddle, but each to their own fantasy I say. I have no idea what ghosts are, if indeed they are anything at all. But I love to play with the idea of a ghost, the idea of a place that does not comply with the rules of our living reality. What makes ghosts and the ghostly realms they inhabit so fascinating is the fact that once upon a time these ghosts were living people. So, unlike the land of faery (another favourite) we have a strong connection to ghosts – they used to be one of us.

Spot the ghost of the King in Terry Pratchett's 'Wyrd Sisters'
Spot the ghost of the King in Terry Pratchett’s ‘Wyrd Sisters’

Whenever I’ve directed a show I always remain firmly attached to the performances. I know a lot of directors will go and sit in the audience (or bar), but I choose to remain in the wings (or the nearest equivalent if we’re not actually on a stage) lurking in the twilight zone that connects the performer to the performance. I love it there, it’s a strange no man’s land that fizzles with creative energy. You can almost see the actors plugging in and get charged up before making their entrances. All of which has nothing to do with ghosts BUT it is a way of experiencing another strange realm where life as we know it appears to be suspended. It’s a magical, creative well of abnormal darkness and light. A place of preparation and transformation.

This year I’m trying out something completely different. A ghost story (for adults). But, unlike other ghostly moments in plays I’ve produced, this one is just about ghosts and will be oerformed in an old building (think Hogwarts). We’re using three different rooms and moving our audience about (yes, it will call for at least two intervals …). It’s called The Ghost Hunters and is set in Victorian times – because the Victorians were passionate about proving the existence of ghosts and because it’s an era I really enjoy. Costumes are more fun as well if I’m honest. So my challenges are to get ghostly looking ghosts on stage without looking cheesy and find some creepy effects to scare the pants off the audience at carefully chosen moments.

In preparation for writing and directing this I’m doing loads of ‘ghost hunter’ research. It’s an interesting field of study – although I have found one book that was so creepy I really didn’t enjoy reading it (ok, I’ll tell the truth .. I only read half of it). Mostly the accounts of ghost hunters and their beliefs and experences make excellent spooky late night reading. We start rehearsals in June and this is going to be a process that I’m going to love so much. Why?
I love rehearsals (especially with such a great company of actors)
I love being in the twilight in-between places (I think my head is one of these places)
I love the idea of ghosts
Somehow I’m hoping all these things will come together …….

Will keep you posted!

Ghosts on Stage