Tuesday, April 23

Tales from the Tombstone Tavern: Shirley – Ameena Hamid Productions Ltd

Episode 4 of Tales from the Tombstone Tavern, the new six part podcast series written by Delmar Terblanche and directed by Jamie Boucher, delves into the classic genre of ghost stories as we hear from one of the ironically quieter monsters around the table, Lady Shirley Edith James, the Wailing Woman (Anna Chedham-Cooper).

When this episode opens our monsters are ill at ease with Adam (Delmar Terblanche), in particular, being on edge and Annie (Sena Bryer) agreeing that something doesn’t seem quite right.

Coming back to the point of the challenge, Shirley brings the discussion around to what it is we actually want from horror. For her, the shock factor of Wolfgang’s (Percival Fagent) story is not enough. There needs to be more to create genuine fear, the emotional response audiences are still using macabre tales to create. The symbolism of ghosts is universal because everyone, everywhere is haunted by something, supernatural or not.

Shirley’s story takes us back to that classic beach setting, echoing Adam’s science fiction horror story. This beach is in wet and windy Norfolk, which has more character than the baking hot sand and crystalline oceans of tropical beaches, because, in this wet, grey sand, you can dig for things which have been hidden away for years.

Our protagonist, Catherine Erinson, is a crime reporter who yearns to be a real writer. She keeps a detailed audio diary on an old Dictaphone, which she has had since she was seven. Currently, she works long hours for low pay, but knowing that she is making a living out of words is enough as she has always known, in the same way she has always known that she is a girl, that she needs to make her living from words.

A rushed breakfast meeting with her contact, DI Marcus Thomson, begins a whirlwind of events involving a young boy, Harry Fitzpatrick, who has gone missing after a period of strange and withdrawn behaviour.

This is an incredibly original twist on the ghost story genre which is both terrifying and desperately sad. Classic imagery such as rapidly descending fog is paired with inventive visions of all-encompassing mirrors to horrific effect. The story plays on the timeless idea in ghost stories that the protagonist is merely losing their mind and Chedham-Cooper’s matter of fact tone when narrating the story beautifully clashes with Catherine’s increasingly hysterical and frantic one. 

Like Wolfgang’s story in episode 3, this is not well received by our audience of monsters who find it too tragic, too cruel. We are however left with the feeling that all hope is not lost and while this heart-stopping story will give you chills, it will also provoke some thought about gender, about society and about how we are all, one way or another, haunted by our own ghosts, even if we try and bury them deep in the sand.

Tales from the Tombstone is being released every two days at 12pm until Saturday 31 October and is available wherever you listen to podcasts.

Reviewer: Donna M Day

Reviewed: 27th October 2020

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★