“Do you believe in ghosts?” asks Jack Britton, as he begins his one-man performance: an investigation into his haunted Nottinghamshire childhood home.
Dressed in a lecturer’s jacket and armed with a chalkboard, Britton searches for an explanation behind the strange noises and activities the house’s inhabitants have experienced. Footsteps, rocking mugs, moving toys – none too threatening but, nonetheless, mysterious.
Part lecture, part story – this is not your typical ghost-telling. Britton – inspired by documentary-style podcasts like Serial and This American Life as revealed in a Q&A session after the performance – plays aloud his recorded interviews. Voices echo around the audience in the intimate, church-converted theatre.
In keeping with his lecture style, he employs an overhead projector to present his evidence. On his chalkboard he organises his findings into columns – who and what, but also why? Possible scientific explanations for paranormal activity include: apophenia (the tendency humans have to perceive patterns in meaningless data); carbon monoxide poisoning, and infrasound. However, this clinical gathering of evidence, whilst interesting, removes much of the fear and intrigue.
A self-confessed “sci-fi nerd”, Britton seems more interested in focusing on the theme of time. “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once” – a quote commonly attributed to Einstein – is the first reference point in the show. In one of the few fictionalised aspects, Britton casts the original owner, Harry, as having built the house within a time rift, through which he subsequently haunts the inhabitants.
A sub-plot emerges as Britton reveals a pattern he has discovered: that all the couples who live in the house separate, including his own parents. The mysterious house and his preparation for the show itself become the grounds on which he reconnects with his father. However, this theme of family was disappointingly not explored further. Britton hints at the unnerving events experienced as acting as a potential motif for familial break up. The performance would have been more impactful had he embraced his emotional vulnerability — like that exhibited in the audio documentaries by which he was inspired.
Despite his earnest storytelling, the performance loses momentum as the show’s purpose is lost. Whilst containing some nice ideas, the eerie ambience created at the start fails to be maintained.
Image Credit: I Used to Hear Footsteps, Enable US Project