Renowned American parapsychologist Doctor Roy Earle, famous for discrediting hauntings and exposing fake mediums, is invited to attend a séance in what is said to be the most haunted building in England; a building with a horrific history, Blaine Manor. Even the locals won't set foot there...
Last year I managed catch Joe O'Byrne's The Haunting of Blaine Manor at the King's Arms, and now the play returns after a hugely successful sell out run. It was a horror masterclass from one of our very best and busiest writers. When watching Joe's work, it is clear that he is a genuine film and theatre enthusiast.
The play is clever, eerie and has lashings of Gothic Horror references. Set in 1953, it draws on the period and has an ambience of the classic matinee about it. The scenes are excellently sculpted and skilfully chime with the parlance of the time.
The story of Blaine Manor focuses on a famous American sceptic, Dr Roy Earle, visiting the renowned old house to disprove the ghost stories. Dr Earle is a straight-talking American with knack for de-bunking myth and mystery. He's a Bogart-esque figure that likes to disregard superstition and focus solely on hard fact. However, he may well have met his match with Blaine Manor.
In The Haunting of Blaine Manor, Joe has created a wonderfully strange environment to trick and deceive the sceptic. The characters are equally believable and odd. It's a funny script with punchy wit and great dialogue.
The sound design never misses an opportunity to terrify and make the audience jump. It also adds to an already sinister atmosphere with tempestuous weather battering the manor. It is unsettling and ultimately confines Dr Earle; leaving him at the mercy of the bizarre goings on. It's up close and personal and will make the audience feel that they are residents of Blaine Manor alongside Dr Earle.
I interrupted Joe's schedule for a quick word and wasn't surprised to find out that he's got quite a bit going at the moment. Alongside Blaine, he has... "two films; one is the first animated tale from Paradise Heights – The Night Death Put Me Down - a poem I wrote some time ago."
Joe has the talented Darren McGinn on board to assist with the animated short. Darren is responsible for some of the artistic material that helps to promote Joe's work including animated trailers for Paradise Heights as well as some atmospheric photography.
But it doesn't stop there for Joe... "I will be shooting the next short film to come from Tales from Paradise Heights – The Last Drop - a tale of a struggling female taxi driver, a lonely woman working nights, there's a spooky vein through it" he explains.
It seems that Joe is on a bit of a creative roll at the moment. He continues; "then there is Banshee, the next play from Paradise Heights; it tells a story of two audience favourites, characters from my play and novel The Bench, Eric and Gabrielle."
Echoing Hollywood's golden era, Blaine Manor returns with the original cast and it something that Joe is very pleased about... "I love it as much as I love the people I work with on these tales" he says "Everything is about collaboration with fantastically talented casts and crews, it's the talents that they bring to the mix that creates the magic."
The Haunting of Blaine Manor, first and foremost, is a great piece of theatre. It's a top script that is brilliantly performed. There are great comedic touches to lighten the mood between the shocks and horror. Best of all, the final scene has a killer twist that ties the whole play up into a neat and unexpected package.
It's theatre at its very best and is surely destined for the bigger stage. I fully recommend all to set foot inside the weird and terrifying world of Blaine Manor.
The Haunting of Blaine Manor
Monday 23rd – Sunday 29th October
The Kings Arms
Tickets £10/£8 – see the Kings Arms website for further details – click here
See also The Haunting of Blaine Manor Facebook page – click here
*On top of all this Joe O'Byrne is organising his first art exhibition. Take a look at one of our region's true creative talent - see here... www.sinfuljoe.com
Main image is Joe O'Byrne in Blaine mode by Darren McGinn
Words by Ian Leslie