When I was reviewing a Brighton Fringe Festival play Broken Link the other day, I saw that Harpy Productions also had an audio drama on their website. As I’m concentrating on the aural this week I thought I would come back to My Father Punished Me When I Talked To Ghosts – and so I did. Two plays about hauntings from the other side suggest that Harpy, run by Noga Flaishon and Katie Pratten, has a particular interest in the afterlife. And their strapline “Wicked Women Telling Weird Tales” would seem to reinforce this. This piece is based on a “creepypasta”, an expression which I confess was entirely new to me but is apparently the generic term used for an internet horror story – you live and learn!
This audio play, adapted by Noga Flaishon from an original story by Edwin Crowe is along rather more traditional lines than Broken Link though is certainly none the worse for that. It has a distinct Stephen King feel to it with its tale of Sean a child who hears voices which emanate from inhabitants of the spirit world but, being blind, cannot interact with them in any other way. Not that his strict overbearing father would let him as the whole business tends to make him angry. And when he gets angry he has a habit of stranding his unsighted son outside and leaving him to find his own way home – there are intimations of other aspects of abuse too. So, Sean has to be careful when visited by Ellie or Alex or Sara; are they trying to help him to “see” the truth about his family life or are they, as father tells him, trying to lure him away from the security of his home?
It’s always difficult writing about this sort of story without giving away too much. Suffice to say that it probes the area of real life horror in the form of manipulative and abusive behaviour as well as the more well worn tropes of the horror genre. I did feel there was too much of a “tail” to the tale after the final denouement which lessened the impact; a tighter closing section might have been preferable. I also wasn’t sure of the framing device of the older Sean going back home to recall events. If nothing else it gives the game away that he remains safe. I did expect a twist to this aspect but it was just left rather superfluous to requirements. Those concerns aside the play is otherwise well structured with some dialogue that mostly avoids cliché and gives the actors a firm foundation on which to build.
The six strong cast give a good account of themselves and differentiate the various characters though there is a bit of accent slippage here and there. I particularly liked the various ghost voices adopted by Shady Murphy, Helena Muir and Penny Ashmore who avoided the obvious quavery tones and went for something rather more subtly real and thus more unsettling. The younger version of Sean was Edina Hadley who showed rather less fear of the visitors than of the father Angus Easner who was appropriately dour bordering on the sinister.
The original short story of My Father Punished Me When I Talked To Ghosts is available to read online (see below). This version was apparently originally planned as a staged production and then reconfigured as an audio piece when that became an impossibility. I actually think this worked to is advantage as it places the audience in the same situation as Sean being unable to see anything and leaving the imagination to fill in the blanks. While I can’t in all honesty say it’s the best audio production I’ve heard, it’s an interesting companion piece to Broken Link and demonstrates that Harpy Productions has more than one string to its collective bow.
My Father Punished Me When I Talked To Ghosts is currently available via Harpy Productions website – click here
Edwin Crowe’s original story appears here
To keep up with the blog and all the latest online theatre reviews please click here and choose a follow option
For my Theatre Online list (suggestions and news of newly released productions) please click here. This list is supplemented by daily updates on Twitter (@johnchapman398)