If there’s something weird
In your neighbourhood,
Who you gonna call?
…Not this lot!
Well, it was a close call – should I watch Boris’s announcement of #Lockdown2 or attend the online premiere performance of new online play Bump In The Night? They were both scheduled to start at the same time and I must have wrestled with my conscience for all of five minutes before deciding to ignore the comedy option and go with the Zoom alternative (who said satire is dead?) Following the pentalogy of plays in their earlier Doing… series, Northern Comedy Theatre have turned their attention to Halloween in another of David Spicer’s looks into activities which draw groups of people together; in this case it is ghost hunting.
The activity may be different but, of course, the mix of characters is much the same as we have grown to love. There’s self-appointed group leader Carter – who prefers to be known by his call sign of Hunter Base. A somewhat prissy even camp individual, Carter has all the right specialist gear and wants things done in a “just so” manner. As far as he’s concerned, he’s not a ghost hunter but a paranormal investigator – that probably tells you all you need to know. He’s dragged along his other half, the sceptical and brash Sharon (Hunter 2) who seems more interested in predicting the outcome of a number of talent/reality shows than she does in engaging with the paranormal. Her chief role is to bring things down to earth with a bump (see what I did there?) and she takes every opportunity to do so. Then there’s Martin (Hunter 1), somewhat in Carter’s shadow and eager to please but increasingly wishing he hadn’t had those four pints at lunchtime. Finally, we meet Lorraine (Hunter 3) who treats the whole enterprise as a mystical experience and would like the others to think she has the gift of being in touch with the other side; think a crazier younger version of Noel Coward’s Madame Arcati and you’re there. The four of them have gone to a traditional haunted house to spend the night there and gather evidence that spirits do exist but their own ineptitude ensures that this is never going to happen; besides at least fifty percent of the team have their own hidden agenda.
The character types are pretty well established by now and Robert Stuart Hudson, Kathryn Chambers, Rob Hardie and Vikki Earle form a strong team who have clearly benefitted from working together (if actually apart) over the last few months. In the best traditions of Halloween there are both humorous and creepy moments in the play which comes across well on the Zoom platform – they are, of course, by now dab hands with the possibilities of the medium. Although cueing still tends to be an issue because of the time lag and rapid movement can blur images, the subject matter this time round meant that this often worked to the piece’s advantage in a Bair Witchy kind of way. The actors are also able to get up close and personal with the camera which means you can see the whites of their eyes and capture every reaction. They fill the frames they are working in so the “made you jump” moments work well and have been carefully thought out by director Shaun Chambers.
When the play was over it transpired I hadn’t missed a thing news wise; Boris was still to emerge to deliver the bad tidings – even though it had been leaked all over the press since mid-afternoon. He might have learned a thing or two from the Northern Comedy Theatre’s ability to not give the game away too soon. Their play (which has all too short a run – so hurry) proved a timely corrective to the unsettling announcements about to be made and, in the circumstance, proved to be a welcome distraction. With theatre venues having to close again from Thursday, it looks like actors, creatives and their audiences are going to have to be reliant on online productions for some time to come and this particular company have built up a good head of steam. I understand that they are currently working on a Christmas special and a couple of their Doing….. plays are now accessible on the platform Scenesaver if you run out of time to see this one. Staying in is, once again, the new going out and we are all going to be looking for entertainment. One of the play’s characters described the afterlife as “A featureless existence, full of despair” or was that our PM warning us what life is going to be like for the next month or so?
Bump In The Night is available via Northern Comedy Theatre’s website – click here
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