As part of a series of official and unofficial fringe events taking place around the weekend of TAM London, attendees were offered discounted tickets to see Ghost Stories, a live stage show currently running at the Duke of York's Theatre. The show is produced by — and stars — Andy Nyman, whom I knew only from some TV appearances (for example in Charlie Brooker's zombie Big Brother spoof, Dead Set) and from his being credited as Derren Brown's co-writer.
The discounted tickets, it turned out, were for a performance of Ghost Stories on Friday evening at 9 pm, exclusively for TAM London delegates. The show is billed as the scariest in London, and I had serious doubts as to how it would play to an auditorium of skeptics.
To my surprise, however, Ghost Stories is a skeptical show, but no less scary for that. Indeed it was very scary, and spookily so — in the grand tradition of truly supernatural horror. The show's generally light-hearted tone is liberally punctuated with unsettling moments and unexpected shocks. Throughout the performance the tension increases as the audience's nervous laughter repeatedly morphs into gasps of terror. At one point towards the end of the evening someone in my row emitted a piercing shriek while jumping literally out of his seat.
So the following day it was a subdued Andy Nyman who took to the TAM London stage when Amateur Transplants had finished entertaining us immediately after lunch. Not everyone in the room had been to see Ghost Stories the previous evening, so he could not talk about the show in any depth. The format was not a talk or lecture, but the first of several discussions at TAM London. Andy Nyman was on stage with Richard Wiseman, with whom he has previous associations (there were photographs to back this up), and they had a nice chat that we were able to overhear, and — in the subsequent Q&A — to join in.
The effectiveness of Ghost Stories as a live experience relies to a large degree on the element of surprise, and Andy Nyman wasn't going to give the game away for those who hadn't seen it. He did, however, talk generally about what goes into making a successful show, whether on stage or on TV, and about his association with Derren Brown.
If you haven't seen Ghost Stories, do.
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