By Willie Sugg:
Do you believe in ghosts? The small, almost claustrophobic Cambridge’s Leper Chapel – set exactly the right tone – with its whitewashed walls and, overlooking the performer, Richard Spaul’s right shoulder, a half smiling half scowling gargoyle.
The opening song “Gloomy Sunday”, described as “The Hungarian Suicide Song”, sung in a Billie Holiday style somewhere between a croon and a wail made no bones about the intended mood – there was something sinister afoot.
So to Edith Wharton’s “Miss Mary Pask” a story of alarm, self-doubt and only partial reassurance. Both centrepiece stories stayed amazingly loyal to the originals but distinct voices and phrasing delivered each character, lifelike, face to face with the audience. Tension rose and fell and rose again but at the core of both stories was that timeless question of the existence of the supernatural. By the end of Elizabeth Bowen’s “Pink May” we were still uncertain and the gargoyle was still laughing.
Perhaps the most effectively sinister aspect of the evening was the humour, liable to jump out at any moment – “Roll Out The Barrel” as black comedy was a real treat. We were sent home provoked by a haunting, humourous and human entertainment.