Ghostly tales designed to scare

By Dionne Christian , Dionne Christian

Ready, set, scream - the cast of A Ghost Tale aim to scare.
Ready, set, scream - the cast of A Ghost Tale aim to scare.

What are you afraid of?

Is it birds? Or insects and spiders? The dark? Heights - not so much of falling but answering the call of the void? Dolls? The unknown?

That's the question writer/actor Benjamin Teh and director Jesse Hilford started with when they decided to bring horror to the Basement Theatre. Now Teh has written nine short plays designed to demonstrate how frightening the imagination can be.

The plays form A Ghost Tale, a collection of stories that vary in creepiness starting with a real-life anecdote of why you shouldn't let bed-bugs bite to a spine-chilling story about a girl in the mirror. Hilford has brought together six actors - James Maeve, Travis Graham, Rhema Sutherland, Nicole Stevens and Emma-Mae Eglinton - to perform and hopes audiences will be left genuinely too scared to sleep.

"One of the first theatre shows I saw was The Woman in Black and it became the reason I work in theatre now," he says. "In one scene, there's a ghost who walks through the audience and we know it's not real, but it was incredibly creepy.

It made me think a lot about how the imagination is the most important tool we have to scare people.

"The audience wants to be scared so it gives the creative team freedom to explore."

But Hilford acknowledges plays in the horror genre aren't common. He finds it surprising given the popularity of such films, but Teh's theory is that horror can easily slip into comedy and parody. He says writing nine short plays, rather than a full-length one, made the writing easier as did deliberately introducing comic touches to some of the stories.

"They might start funny, but I hope the endings will be terrifying!"

Inspired by work by Edgar Allen Poe and Roald Dahl's twisted short stories, Teh decided to give the scripts to Hilford and the actors, pop into a couple of early rehearsals to answer any questions and then to leave them to get on with it.

"I want to see what they do; I want to be scared."

However, Hilford describes himself as a self-confessed scaredy-cat who got the fright of his life when the cast jumped out on him when he wasn't expecting it.

"It's my fault; I told them at rehearsals we all had to try to genuinely scare one another and that's all it took for them to get me."

What: A Ghost Tale
Where & when: Basement Theatre, November 8 - 12 at 6.30pm

- NZ Herald

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