Showing posts from March, 2014

'Haunting Julia'

Last night I saw an amateur production of this Alan Ayckbourn play at my local theatre (it's just up the road). It was a very enjoyable evening. I've always liked Ayckbourn's work, but this is the first time - to my knowledge, at least - that he's written a ghost story. A bereaved father, an ex-boyfriend, and a self-styled psychic meet at a house where a teenager committed suicide twelve years before. The house is now a small museum dedicated to Julia, a musical prodigy who was composing from early childhood. But, as strange voices appear on tapes, and one half of the room becomes chillingly cold, can we be sure that Julia ever left? Suffice to say that it works well, and makes for interesting comparisons with Conor McPherson's approach, especially 'Shining City' and 'The Weir'. The play is very English in its central premise - not the ghost, but the idea that creativity is baffling and somewhat suspect to 'normal' people. Julie, the

Three New Ghost Stories by Helen Grant

The ghost story's natural habitat is the marginal, the ephemeral, the modest publication. Well, that's my feeling - not sure why. Perhaps it's because, when I started reading ghost stories I acquired a lot of tatty old paperbacks, and a similarly large pile of chapbooks in various stages of repair. Which brings me to Ghost Stories of Innerpeffray , three tales by Helen Grant. The stories were written about, and read in, the public library of Innerpeffray, and have now been published as a chapbook . Ideal reading for chaps! And ladies, too, of course. It costs £5 plus postage, which seems quite reasonable. You can hear Helen read one of the stories (for free!) here . I like it.

Here with the Shadows

The first word of the first story in this book is Jewel. It's the name of a character, but also seems apposite given that this collection is a diadem of strange, luminous tales. A diadem found in a dusty attic, perhaps, by someone who has not had a wonderful life.  Tem's characters are beset by the past in some form, and as a result they often function rather ineptly in the present. Thus in 'Back Among the Shy Trees' a son returns to his parents' home and rediscovers his childhood. It is a horror story, but one that could never be a horror movie because almost everything significant occurs in the protagonist's mind. He is someone who owns no books and watches no television, but 'always read the newspaper religiously, front to back. It explained the world' - the last of a series of deftly-placed revelations that reveal a damaged soul. Tem wears his erudition and his influences lightly, but anyone familiar with the weird genre will spot nods

Infernal Regions

Most bookish people are at least aware of what's in Dante's epic poem. But, rather like Paradise Lost , The Divine Comedy is one of those classics that look good on a shelf, next to the stuff we enjoy. (Well, I got through the first bit of the trilogy then lost interest. I blame Dorothy L. Sayers' rather stodgy translation.) However, Dante's vision of Hell is such fun that many film makers have paid tribute to it, usually indirectly, but sometimes in a full-on adaptation. Here is the earliest example - and one of the earliest feature films, in the modern sense. For those with more modern tastes, there's the recent animated feature 'based on EA's must-have game', apparently. Yes, there's a game. And no, the feature film version is not utterly farcical. In fact, it's a rather clever adaptation which - while taking huge liberties - is great fun and showcases the skills of half a dozen directors, each of whom tackles a different infernal region.