Halloween Productions – Top Tips for a Spooky Set of Shows
It’s the month of Halloween – all over social media people are changing their names to something as ghoulish as possible. As well as trick or treat, people across the capital tell ghost stories and events are set up specifically to scare the living daylights out of each other. But what of the spooky history of Theatreland?
At London Box Office, we love a good scare, so here are 5 London shows and theatres that have a history of ghosts, apparitions and unexplainable sightings from beyond the grave:
The Woman in Black
It is undoubtedly the scariest show in the West End – the terrifying tale of Arthur Kipps and The Woman In Black. Yet when you walk in, the Fortune Theatre feels unassuming and mundane, in use as a performance space for 93 years and a pub for a further 150 before that. But with five shows a week, an estimated 10.5 million people will have passed across this spot since its theatrical genesis. That’s a lot of residual, latent memories with huge paranormal potential. Beyond the back wall, a graveyard from The Church of Scotland still exists, bodies buried mere feet from the back of the stage.
Audience members, cast and crew alike all have reported a startling number of ghost sightings in this theatre, ranging from a Victorian woman who frequents one of the boxes to a man called Gerald who, every year on 7 November, occupies seat F17 with a bunch of flowers. The story goes that he planned to elope with his sweetheart centuries ago, but she never appeared at their agreed meeting point. He waits for her still…
On any other day, this show is enough to make you look over your shoulder every few seconds when travelling home, so imagine watching it on Halloween. Book those tickets now!
While the show 42nd Street doesn’t itself have any ghost stories or tales or horror, it is now playing in the most haunted theatre in Theatreland. Theatre Royal, Drury Lane has been infamously occupied by a number of ghosts over the years – a theatre has stood on the site in various incarnations since 1663. Famous characters include the ghost of Nell Gwynn, carrying her basket of oranges, or Joseph Grimaldi, the father of modern clowning, who gives any actor not working hard enough on stage a swift kick.
In the most part, these ghosts seem to be the friendly sort in Drury Lane. None more so than The Man in Grey, an 18th century nobleman in full regalia, who occupies the fourth row of the upper circle. The superstition though is that he only appears for shows that he deems worthy and so is associated as a good omen. Hopefully 42nd Street have spotted him and will play in this theatre for many more years to come!
Once again, it’s the Phoenix Theatre, the future home of horror classic The Exorcist, which is associated with ghost tales. But with this production opening on 20 October, just before Halloween, it may give The Woman In Black a run for its money as a theatre show that strikes fear into the hearts of its audience.
The rumour around this theatre is that it occupies the ghost of Stephanie Lawrence, a theatre actor who for many years played Mrs Johnstone in Blood Brothers, which called the Phoenix Theatre home for 21 years. The musical draws on deep emotional grief, so it’s no surprise that staff involved in the theatre have reported seeing her at the back of the auditorium, wailing and lamenting.
The Exorcist itself is widely considered one of the best horror films in history, being the first to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture and as one of the highest grossing films in history. The theatre production stars Adam Garcia and so promises to be a sell-out success.
A Woman Of No Importance
Playing at the Vaudeville Theatre, A Woman Of No Importance is part of Dominic Dromgoole’s Oscar Wilde season in the West End. But the theatre itself has a ghost that smells of a peculiar, old-fashioned perfume. No one seems to be able to trace the smell or place the reference, but it is undoubted that it accompanies the feeling of a presence just behind you. Apparently, this ghost wanders around just behind the stalls bar and so is more likely to spook the bar staff than the punters themselves!
Phantom Of The Opera
This long-running musical has its phantom all too clearly displayed for all to see. But as soon as the chandelier falls at the start of The Phantom Of The Opera, the audience is hooked. It has played in Her Majesty’s Theatre for the last 31 years, the second longest running musical in the West End.
But despite there being a real-life phantom inhabiting this theatre, audience members have still reported sightings of a male figure in one of the top boxes, which was an old favourite of actor-manager Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree. Perhaps he remains, not one to be upstaged by a stage performer. Either way, this hauntingly beautiful show is a perfect choice to end you October Halloween adventures with.
Check out the London Box Office Halloween Shows page for more theatre offerings at unbeatable prices.