Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories is a lost and long forgotten piece of Alan Ayckbourn's writing which only came to light during 2018 thanks to the Stephen Joseph Theatre's press officer Jeannie Swales.

The piece itself - and even its actual title - have been lost and were not recorded with the playwright having only the vaguest memories of the piece.

From various recollections, it appears that during the winter season of 1989 at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough, late-night readings were scheduled. These were advertised by the title
Ghost Stories as 'a short season of late-night readings of ghost stories in the studio theatre.'

Apparently there was some change to this initial plan as each of the six performances featured the same ghost story by Alan Ayckbourn - it is not known whether other stories were also read each night. The playwright recalls writing something which could be presented by any member of his company which were available for the late night slot following that evening's performance of
Absurd Person Singular. Unfortunately not even the title of the work survives and it also appears no manuscript has survived.

The theatre press officer, Jeannie Swales, recalls the story featured a house burning down, killing a couple trapped inside. At the end of the evening, the ghosts in all their burnt glory appeared courtesy of a 'Pepper's Ghost' effect. The ghosts were played by Jeannie and the box office manager Joy Beadle.

Given the small space in the Studio, it appears it was quite an effort to create a 'Pepper's Ghost' which requires a large sheet of angled glass in order to produce the illusion of people and objects fading in and out of existence (one of the most famous uses of it is within Walt Disney theme parks within the 'ballroom' sequence of the
Haunted Mansion ride).

Jeannie recalls an unpleasant costume was worn to give the appearance of the burnt spectres which materialised at the climax.

Although it is only speculation, the Studio saw the world premiere of Stephen Mallatratt's famed adaptation of Susan Hill's
The Woman In Black in 1987. It is on record that Alan was inspired by this to write his own ghost story to match the success of The Woman In Black - which eventually appeared as Haunting Julia in 1994. It does not seem far-fetched to suggest that Ghost Stories was devised primarily to see whether a 'Pepper's Ghost' illusion could be created in the theatre's small studio space and perhaps incorporated into a play.

Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.
All research in this section is by Simon Murgatroyd and should be credited if reproduced.