I’m really looking forward to returning to the role of Peter Cushing when James Goss’s The Gentlemen of Horror opens at the Camden Fringe in August. I first performed the play last year in Wandsworth, followed by another night at the Etcetera in Camden in January. Now we’re just off Charing Cross Road for a longer run.
It’s also exciting to be working with a new Christopher Lee. Simon Kane, who played the part previously, was unavailable this time so stepping into his shoes is William McGeough. I did feel a little nervous to begin with – Simon is someone I’ve know for a long time and we’ve worked together a few times so we had built up a short hand, but when I met and started rehearsing with Will it was really interesting because as you would expect, it shakes it up a bit, energises it and creates a new interpretation of their friendship which is sometimes subtly different but just as valid.
That all sounded a bit pretentious didn’t it? Sorry. Basically, Will is great and you should all come along and watch the result. We’re on at the The Phoenix Artist’s Club, Phoenix St, WC2H HBU from Saturday 2nd August – Thursday 7th August. You can book tickets and find out more from the Camden Fringe website here.
Wireless Theatre Company has just released my latest collaboration with Peter Davis, The Trial of Sherlock Holmes.
It had been quite a while since we’d delved into the world of the great detective, but Peter and I needed little excuse to head back to Baker Street. Our last play, Sherlock Holmes Strikes Back, was released back in 2011 and has been one of their most popular downloads ever since. I think it was inevitable that we would do some kind of follow up.
It’s not a direct sequel – there’s a fair bit of difference between the two plays. Sherlock Holmes Strikes Back took its inspiration from the 1940s wartime propaganda films starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, as well as their subsequent radio outings. If you’ve never heard or seen this partnership in action, I would recommend watching the films and having a listen. Rathbone and Bruce are a formidable team and one of the defining versions of Holmes and Watson. I will admit that when I was younger and took myself more seriously I was less than enamoured with Nigel Bruce. Now I see how great a comic performance it is.
Having covered the wartime adventures of Sherlock Holmes, we needed a new hook for our story and inspiration came from Holmes’ popularity and the number of copycat detectives that sprung up in his wake. There are tonnes of them out there, Max Carados, Thomas Carnaki, Professor S.F.X. Van Dusen and probably the most famous of them all, Sexton Blake. There’s a great collection of stories that you can track down, The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, edited by former BBC Director General Sir Hugh Carlton Greene. It was also adapted for television by Thames TV in the 1970s and is available from the wonderful Network Releasing.
So Holmes’s rivals were the inspiration – how would they feel in competition to the public’s favourite consulting detective? We also decided to make it harder on ourselves by writing three separate adventures to create a portmanteau. It was good fun, coming up with ridiculous cases for the Holmes and Watson to solve. It was important to remember that while the cases were silly, we treat our heroes with respect. If we send them up a little, it is done with love.
The Trial of Sherlock Holmes is a Newgate Production, exclusively available from The Wireless Theatre Company. It’s a subscription service, but well worth it. You can join from as little as three pounds and there’s lots to choose from. Some of them even feature me, so think of that as an incentive! To find out how to subscribe, click here.
Out now in your local pair of ears.
The Monster Hunters returned in May for a brand new episode and we were joined by an exciting guest star!
Destroy All Monster Hunters is the first of four special episodes Newgate Productions are producing this year. It’s a blockbuster style romp as Roy Steel and Lorrimer Chesterfield investigate the murders of the world’s top monster hunters, taking them from the swinging streets of London to the northern world of Leeds. Can our heroes put a stop to the plans of the fiendish Sir Princely Mothman before they too fall victim?
Guest starring as Sir Princely Mothman is none other than Dan Starkey, known to Doctor Who fans as Strax, the Sontaran factotum to Madam Vastra and Jenny, a pair of Victorian Adventurers set to return to the show later this year. It’s a terrible cliche to sat, ‘oh, X is simply wonderful’, ‘everything was marvellous’ and even more of a cliche to moan about saying it. But Dan is a thoroughly nice guy and absolutely terrific as Sir Princely. He came in having put a lot of thought into the character and delivered a suitably oily and stomach churning performance. We also gave him the part of a Collosisquid (Listen to it, it’ll all make sense) and off he went again, breathing life into a character that was only there for a couple of jokes to the point where we really wanted to find a way of bringing the character back! Maybe one day…
Also, a big thank you to Peter Davis who not only writes and stars as Lorrimer, but edits the thing as well. He had to put up with me wielding the worst cold I think I’ve ever had (it stuck around for weeks. I nearly lost my voice and I sounded ridiculous. There was a point when I had to download one of those text-to-speech apps to talk, which meant sounding like an American lady). It meant I recorded all my stuff weeks after everyone else and Peter had to painstakingly edit it all back together. On top of being a new father. It’s down to his hard work that The Monster Hunters always sounds so polished.
Dan at the mike. And a reclining Sir Maxwell.
If you want to hear it, get over to themonsterhunters.com/episodes. You can also follow the series on twitter and like it on the Facebook.
Society has finished. All cities are gone. The best thing to do is to stay in what’s left of your homes, open a tin of pineapple chunks and keep your radios tuned to The Bunker.
The Bunker is a brand new podcast from the makers of Gorilla Film Magazine. Set in the year 2414, The Bunker is the planet’s only post-apocalyptic breakfast radio show. It’s also a lot more: each month, The Bunker explores the world of storytelling through music, interviews, readings and discussions. Episode one features BAFTA winning animator Mickey Please talking to the show’s robotic interviewer, InterviewBot, as played by me!
The Bunker is a dark comic blend of fact and fiction that’s available to listen free every month on Soundcloud. A full list of credits is available on the Gorilla website.
Episode 2 of Wireless Theatre’s The Legend of Springheel’d Jack has just been released and while I’m not in this one, it’s still worth talking about because it’s a great, exciting, ambitious show that’s well worth your time. You can find it on Wireless’s website here, and membership costs as little as £3, which is great value for all that content .
Springheel’d was a great series to be involved with. Having devoured the first series and feeling incredibly jealous of all those actors, it was great to be asked to take part. It gave me a chance to work with Neil Foster again, who I’d worked with on The St. Valentine’s Day Murder, were he had fun stealing all the scenes he was in. Our characters, Thackery and Makepeace, were bad Victorian actors. Playing a ham actor is always good fun as it gives you a licence to feast, if only a little, on the scenery. Only being an audio show, that scenery is in your ears.
A great fact I didn’t know at the time was passed to me by one of the writers, Gareth Parker. The script excerpts that Neil and I were performing were from a genuine Victorian melodrama, The Murder in the Red Barn, itself based on an actual crime – the murder of Maria Marten in Suffolk in 1827. The play proved popular and versions of it were still being performed into the 20th century, with a film version being released in 1935. It’s a fact that certainly adds a nice touch of authentic Victoriana to the Springheel saga.
If you want to know more about the actual crime, there’s a Wikipedia page here, and you can find some information about the play on The Crushed Tragedian, a blog about 19th Century theatre here.
The story of a terribly nice friendship is returning to the stage for one night only as The Gentlemen of Horror arrives at Camden’s Etcetera Theatre.
When they first worked together in The Curse of Frankenstein and Dracula, Peter Cushing was one of the most famous actors in Britain, while Christopher Lee was unknown.
For the next quarter of a century, these two killed each other again and again and became firm friends. As Christopher Lee became internationally famous, Peter Cushing gradually retired into a life of quiet obscurity. And yet neither quite lost their taste for blood…
Directed by Kate Webster and starring Simon Kane and Matthew Woodcock, The Gentlemen of Horror is at the Etcetera Theatre, Camden High Street at 7.30pm, Monday 13th January. Tickets: £7.50. For more information, why not visit Kate’s website here?
You can read an interview with the writer, James Goss (Doctor Who: Dead Air – audiobook of the year 2010), on the Horror Channel’s website here.
The Monster Hunters are back for Christmas in a special episode entitled The Whispering Fog.
Sent back in time to Victorian London, Roy Steel and Lorrimer Chesterfield have set themselves up as supernatural detectives. When they are asked to investigate the disappearance of young governess Kitty Adair by her sister Emily, they discover a more dark and terrible horror. One that lurks the streets of London, looking to feast.
This was a departure for us, as the show is usually set in the early 1970s, albeit one seen through the prism of ITC adventures shows and British horror films. Both Peter Davis, co-writer (playing Lorrimer Chesterfield) and I enjoyed the chance to write a sort of Holmesian parody (something we have previous form in), with a dash of the Victorian ghost story via Oliver Twist (Blackscar’s home was inspired by reading about Jacob’s Island).
We always like the Christmas episode to be a bit smaller and more self-contained than the Halloween one, which feels more like an ‘event’ episode. Part of the fun of Christmas is Ghost stories and watching Gothic horrors on late night TV, so we try to give it a bit of that atmosphere. At the same time, it would seem a bit crazy to set the whole thing in one location and not get Roy and Lorrimer out on to the streets, so it ended up feeling a bit bigger than last year’s Christmas special, The Haunting of Roy Steel.
If a trip down the dark streets of Victorian London takes your fancy, why not pop over th themonsterhunters.com/episodes and give it a listen. It’s free to download!
Episode one of The Legend of Springheel’d Jack, series 2 of The Springheel Saga, has now been released by The Wireless Theatre Company.
Set seven years after The Strange Case of Springheel’d Jack, series two sees us catch up with Detective Inspector Jonah Smith, still on the hunt for his mysterious nemesis.
I had a very jolly time playing a scenery chewing actor, and I hope I provided my finest cuts of prime ham.
This is a great show, and it’s well worth catching up with the first series if you’ve not heard it already. They’re all available on Wireless Theatre‘s website, and its a well worth joining up as the have a wide range of excellent plays on offer.
PRAISE FOR THE LEGEND OF SPRINGHEEL’D JACK
“…Writing and production of evident quality,” Starburst Magazine.
“…The Springheel Saga Series 2 is another triumph,” Frost Magazine.
“…The Terror of London packs an almighty punch… an all-out success. Not to be missed!” The Morgue of Intrigue.
“…Among the best mysteries we’ve heard in recent memory,” Radio Drama Revival.
“…Compelling writing and strong characters on display in this brilliantly crafted thriller,” Hammer Horror Podcast
I wondered where I’d put this little blog thing. I’ve dusted it off and I’m going to try and update it at least more than once a year. Maybe I’ll even write something that’s interesting! Don’t hold your breath, though. You might faint.
In my defence it’s been a busy year outside of work as my daughter, Lydia, was born in April and that’s been keeping me happily busy. But I did think I ought to get round to putting something on here for the three people who turn up every now and again.
I’ve had another round of monster hunting to keep me busy. If you’ve not heard it yet, series 2 is available in its entirety from themonsterhunters.com. We set ourselves a challenge this year, to give the show a strong arc and to develop the characters a bit. I hope we’ve succeeded in part of this. Our Halloween special is also available, and our Christmas special is out in the next few days.
I was also privileged to play one of the icons of British horror, and acting in general, when I played Peter Cushing in James Goss’s brilliant play The Gentlemen of Horror. Set in the dressing rooms of Cushing and Christopher Lee, it charts their friendship and careers from 1957, when they worked together on Curse of Frankenstein, up to the early ‘80s and their appearance in House of Long Shadows. Over that time, Christopher Lee’s career takes off, while Peter Cushing faces personal tragedy and potential obscurity.
It was a pleasure working with director Kate Webster, and my good friend Simon Kane (playing Lee). It’s a great challenge playing a real person, especially one as beloved as Peter Cushing, but I certainly enjoyed getting my teeth into it and doing some proper research (watching films counts as well) – did you know Cushing’s mum used to dress him as a girl? Oh, you did.
Anyway, enough of this. I can’t promise to update this too often, but certainly when there’s something worth telling you both. So keep your internet tuned here!
Tomorrow night sees The Saint Valentine’s Day Murder open at the Lost Theatre in Wandsworth, this time as a fully-fledged stage production.
Written by Monster Hunter Peter Davis for the Wireless Theatre Company a couple of years ago, we first performed this as a live audio recording to acclaim from both Remote Goat and Fringe Report, so I was happy to take on the role of Jean Pierre le Poulet once again when Peter decided to revive it.
Set at a speed dating event for matchmaking website runningoutoffish.com, the evening takes a nasty turn when one of the members is murdered. Can the great detective Jean Pierre le Poulet get to the bottom of the situation before another date ends is tragedy?
The Saint Valentine’s Day Murder is a fun, fast past comedy mystery which Fringe Report described as ‘Brilliantly written, directed and acted, and very very funny.’ Why not check it out?
14TH – 18TH February
Lost Theatre, 208 Wandsworth Rd.
Tickets: £10/£8 concession