Plays


This weekend, my one-act play Ghost Hunting was going live on stage in the Blue Mountains, NSW, part of the Blackheath Theatre Company’s Out Of The Blue show of four one-act plays.

Over five performances, a community hall was to have become, for one enchanted half hour, a haunted house for the entertainment of audiences. We were delighted to be sharing the stage with three other magic spaces of wonder created by the talents of three other local writers.

Sadly, it was not to be.

Ten days before our premiere, the Blackheath Theatre Company informed us the entire season of Out Of The Blue was off, claiming the July 2022 weekend in question posed too great a Covid risk.

They became, in all likelihood, the only performing arts company in Australia to pull shows this weekend citing Covid risk.

Yet other local cultural events are enjoying full houses right now.

I deeply apologise to any theatre-goer affected. The decision was made without any consultation with the crews and cast and its validity has been hard for many of us to accept. C’est la vie. Que sera sera.

The sudden loss of Out of the Blue came as a major blow for the actors, crews and volunteers who put heart and soul into it over a very long time (we were postponed three times before due to lockdowns against which I had no objection).

And the trust it may well have fractured could potentially damage live theatre generally in the Blue Mountains community. If so, I sincerely hope that full trust can be recovered. A thriving live theatre scene is something, I’m sure, we all want to see.

Author photo: Kylie Blakemore (copyright). From left: Iain Fraser, writer-director, Underground; Brian Twomey, writer, Sweet Dreams, Baby; David Levell, writer-director, Ghost Hunting (three of the four Out Of The Blue playwrights).

My ghost plays FISHER’S GHOST and SHAKING HANDS can now be heard on the Blue Mountains Radio Players Soundcloud page. These are recordings of the live radio performances on March 27, both about half an hour long, happily preserved in cyberspace as spirits of the air.

FISHER’S GHOST: The apparition of Frederick Fisher in 1826 is Australia’s best-known ghost story (except maybe Waltzing Matilda). But did he really did return from the dead to finger his murderer? Did someone really claim to have seen him? The jury’s still out; a little mystery has gone a long way.

Fictional adaptions are legion. The first was The Sprite of the Creek! in 1832, a poem by ex-convict schoolteacher/writer James Riley. Fisher crossed the hemispheres in 1853 when Charles Dickens, always partial to a good ghost tale, ran an imaginative retelling by John Lang in his Household Words magazine. Raymond Longford’s 1924 film Fisher’s Ghost has, like Fisher himself, long-since ghosted away. Douglas Stewart’s play Fisher’s Ghost: An Historical Comedy materialised in 1960, published with illustrations by Norman Lindsay. An operetta about the ghost by John Gordon enjoyed a TV presentation in 1963.

For the latest apparition, simply conjure up BM Radio Players’ Soundcloud… no ouija board required! I’ve stuck close to the known facts with a handful of fictional insertions, including the framing device of lady ghost-hunter Adelaide Swift interviewing the Fisher-haunted ghost witness, John Farley.

SHAKING HANDS: I can’t say too much about it without revealing the twists and turns, but imagine a sceptic and believer meeting in a lonely outback pub in 1877. Unlike Fisher’s Ghost this one is entirely original. A couple of vague inspirations: the discovery of diprotodon (see below) fossils in Wellington Caves in the 1830s, and the contemporaneous visit of Charles Darwin to the Blue Mountains, when he stayed at Gardner’s Inn, Blackheath. My protagonist, scientist Charles Dawkins, is named for the Beagle‘s adventurous genius and also for Richard Dawkins, that most eminent uber-rationalist of our day and age.

The Blue Mountains Radio Players manifest two of my ghost plays, FISHER’S GHOST and SHAKING HANDS, in the ballroom of Katoomba’s Palais Royale Hotel on March 27. The Radio Players raise the spirit of the Golden Age of radio, performing as if going live to air. It’s truly a hoot but be sure to arrive in good time as it has been known to pack out.

Fisher’s Ghost concerns Australia’s most famous spectre, the alleged apparition of a convict, Frederick Fisher, in 1826. While sticking close to the known facts, the play imagines John Farley, who saw the ghost, being interviewed in later years by a paranormal investigator.

Set in a lonely bush hotel in 1877, Shaking Hands is the meeting of a scientist who’s utterly sceptical of the supernatural with an innkeeper who claims to have good reason for being anything but sceptical.