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GUEST POST: The Haunting of Blaine Manor Returns, Coast to Coast…

Writer: Joe O'Byrne

Christmas is coming early this year.  In October to be precise.  October 9th… It’s going to be our first performance in nearly 2 years.  Not that any of us wanted it that way.

Up to March 2020, The Haunting of Blaine Manor was riding high in the North.  The play was touring spectacular theatres and had a wonderful tour lined up – with venues being added on a weekly basis. We were touring magnificent Victorian and Edwardian theatres all adding to the gothic splendour of the play.  Let’s face it – we were on a roll.  The harder you work the luckier you get.  If that is the case then I’m one of the luckiest bastards around.

The play had a growing positive reputation.  In theatres where we were playing more than one night audience members were coming back to watch again with friends they’d brought, to show them their discovery, to take extra joy in watching them experience what they’d experienced the night before; the thrills, chills, the characters, the fresh spin on horror tropes, the unique and original sound design and score by Justin Wetherill, the plot and the absolutely killer twists.  Some audience members had followed the show to different venues in different towns, again bringing their friends.

The play whisked you back in time to a more glamorous age, and a re-imagining of that age where I mixed Bogart with Hammer Horror and adding a nod to the works of M R James, England’s most prolific and endeared ghost story writer.  Yes, it had all that but with a unique voice all its own – my own – that really appealed to today’s theatre audiences.  In no time at all it was being hailed as the new The Woman in Black, and fast gaining a reputation as one of the most classic haunters ever written – easy for me to say I know, but more importantly audiences and reviewers were saying it as well.

It was really hard work getting here.

I’ve learned so much in dealing with theatres and theatre managers and programmers, the gatekeepers if you like.  But the gatekeepers have a reputation to protect the reputations of their theatres.  It’s my job to convince them that they are taking on a winning product when they book the play, my job to put together a winning producer’s pack that sells the play, a pack that includes the dazzling photography of Shay Rowan, Karen McBride and the digital wizardry of graphic artist Darren McGinn.  And of course, the play has a kick-ass trailer for their websites, strong imagery that tells the audience what to expect at a glance.  It’s my job to sell myself as much as I sell the play, building working relationships with them – I’ll work just as hard as them at getting the audiences in.  Two words underline all of that at getting that attention.  Persistence and patience.  You have to be thick-skinned and prepared to roll with punches, rejections – but take your shots when they even almost present themselves.   It’s that approach that prepares you for the disasters beyond your control.  Well, most of them.  2020 had something horrific up its sleeve for all of us.  Let’s not speak of it.

A cancelled tour that had so much magic promised?  In the end, we all had far, far worse to deal with.

So you pick yourself up, you plan.  You keep talking, you postpone, you postpone and you postpone again.  A couple of venues cancel you and don’t tell you, a lot ignore you or appear to ignore you.  But they have all got their own huge problems to deal with, absolutely heart-rending problems of show closures, staff layoffs, potential theatre closings.  Your problem is really, really small in comparison to all of that.  So, you wait for when the time will arrive again to start that persistent – but patient – drip drip of email and phone contact to get the show rolling again.

The thing is not to let go.  I’m like a dog with a bone me, I won’t let go.

In terms of what I’m going to do with this play I’m still only in the first act.  I’ve got the bite, I’ve got the energy, I’ve got the goals and the only time I’ll stop pursuing them is when my heart stops.  It’s all just way too enjoyable to give up.  I allow myself a punch of the air with every new booking I get because I know I’ve worked hard to get it sure – but I also know that I never gave up.  I’m not deluded though, I know it’s a good production and it won’t let theatres or audiences down.

So now it’s all coming back and the game re-commences.  The tour is building again, and several dates are in there, several conversations are going on and new venues are being added all of the time, we’ll soon be coming to your town or a town near you.

The current state of play is below:

Tyne Theatre and Opera House, Newcastle | Saturday 9th October 2021

The Platform, Morecambe | Wednesday 27th October 2021

The Gladstone Theatre, Port Sunlight | Friday 29th October 2021

The Muni, Colne | Saturday 30th October 2021

Theatr Colwyn, Colwyn Bay | Friday 12th November 2021

Scarborough Spa | Sunday 21st November 2021

The Gatehouse Theatre, Stafford | Friday 28th January 2022

The Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield | Friday 25th February 2022

The Theatre Royal, Wakefield | Friday 18th March 2022

Whitby Pavilion | Thursday 21st April 2022

Burnley Mechanics | Saturday 18th June 2022

Swansea Grand Theatre | Wednesday 26th October 2022

More Dates Coming Soon!

If you’re a programmer in a mainstream theatre just about anywhere in the UK and you haven’t heard of me, you’ll definitely have heard of me by the end of 2022, you’ll probably have heard from me several times. I can’t wait to meet a whole lot of you, and you’re gonna love the show…

We can’t wait to meet you, the audience again.  The firecracker cast of Peter Slater, Jo Haydock, Andrew Yates, Ed Barry and James Allen are fired up and ready to rock. We’re a small punk band outfit on the road, but we deliver an orchestral performance wherever we go.

So, Christmas is the 9th of October.  The Haunting of Blaine Manor plays the utterly magnificent Tyne Theatre and Opera House, a venue of Edwardian splendour, a haunted venue where backstage Bob lost his life to a cannon ball on the Thunder Run over a hundred years ago.  Maybe he’ll join us.  Several other theatres above are also haunted…delicious.

Come and see the play that sits alongside The Woman in Black as a creepy, terrifying night out, it’s a play that will stay with you.  Never forget that live theatre is magic, and these theatres more than deserve you again, and you know what? You deserve it.  Come and join us.

The Reviews Hub - North West

The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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