||[Oct. 23rd, 2008|11:06 am]
International Bon Vivant and Raconteur
Last night I went with ellen_datlow and a bunch of other folks -- twelve of us in all! -- to see Robert Lloyd Parry's one-man M.R. James show Oh, Whistle... What an amazing show! Parry doesn't exactly act out James' stories, nor are they strictly readings. Instead, he becomes James himself, masterfully, and tells the stories to you exactly as James himself might have done at Christmastime at King's College. In fact, the set was James' study at King's College in Cambridge, and the intimacy of the "black box" theater -- the 78th Street Theater Lab holds only thirty or so audience members -- is perfect for the occasion. You really do feel like you're sitting with M.R. James in his study while he tells you his weird, macabre tales by candlelight. (For the record, the stories are "The Ash Tree" and "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad," which is perhaps James' best known tale, and the source material for the 1957 Jacques Tourneur film Night of the Demon.)
As a pleasant surprise, because it was opening night of Parry's three-week run there was a wine reception right afterward where we got to chat with him and the co-producer (and mystery and horror writer) Marvin Kaye.
I can't recommend Oh, Whistle... enough. It's an absolutely stunning piece of theater, and Parry does an unbelievable job bringing the stories -- and M.R. James himself -- to life before your eyes. It actually made me long for the day when people just sat around telling each other ghost stories. If you have a chance to see the show, don't pass it up!