Grave Expectations at South Hill ParkBy Caroline Cook
June 06, 2012
As the sun starts to go down and shadows fall around South Hill Park ghosts stories will be coming to life in the grounds of the 17th Century manor house.
Wandering among the trees and strolling through the Italian gardens visitors will be stopped in their tracks as they hear a hushed whisper beckoning them to another part of the terrace.
Could it be the Limping Lady, awake again to tell her tragic tale, or the Unquiet Bride running from her murderous husband?
“I don’t want to send people home to have nightmares but it’s got some chilling ideas and some creepy elements,” says Dominique Gerrard, director of unique theatre experience Grave Expectations, which arrives at South Hill Park in Bracknell tomorrow.
The show, performed by Endpaper Theatre, invites theatre-goers on a ghost walk while they listen to some of Charles Dickens’ most haunting stories. “We knew it was Dickens’ bicentenary year and our company is all about creating theatre inspired by literature and putting on theatre in non-theatre spaces,” explains Dominique.
“It came about because The Compass Theatre in Ickenham had initially invited us to perform another show and they asked us if we wanted to create something for Dickens’ bicentenary. So we developed it and looked further afield at other interesting spaces. South Hill Park was just wonderful because the grounds are so beautiful and we take people on a little journey.”
During the evening guests will wander around the trees and terraces of the ancient manor house guided by a master storyteller who will regale them with tales of Dickens’s demons.
“My first inspiration for wanting to do ghost stories was The Signal-Man which is probably his best known short story,” says Dominique. “It really plays on your imagination. Others might feel reminiscent for people who have a knowledge of Dickens.
“There’s a story which comes from Bleak House of the haunted bride and, for anybody that knows Miss Haversham, it feels like an early version of that character.”
South Hill Park provides the ideal setting for the ghostly tales with long-standing rumours of ethereal children heard screaming in the upper rooms and a ghostly figure of a woman spotted on the grand staircase.
“South Hill Park has lots of little corners and we have got a woodland bit where we perform a piece in the trees and there’s the grand Italian garden as well,” says Dominique. “The outdoors brings a lot of other factors. You have got the environment and there’s things that we couldn’t recreate in the theatre.
“There’s natural sounds round us, lots of things you cannot account for which adds to the atmosphere and hopefully the audience will get a sense of going on a journey and getting a bit lost. Of course they won’t be lost but it’s a really involving experience,” says Dominique, pausing before adding, “hopefully people will feel quite afraid, well a little bit afraid.”
Tickets are £12.50 or £10.50 for members and concessions. To book visit www.southhillpark.org.uk or call (01344) 484 123.