A large room, in near darkness, heavy black drapes lining the walls – what light we behold emanates from four flickering candles...
There amid these frail beacons, a figure, a man, old fashioned in attire, wire framed spectacles, Brilliantined hair scraped flat.
Before a rapt audience he proceeds to talk. To tell stories. Strange stories. Unsettling stories.
At times vigorously, gesticulating wildly, splicing the weak candlelight, casting flurries of shadows into the gloom.
Sometimes taking on the voice and manner of those ill-beknighted souls who populate his tales of terror. A guileless boy. A credulous maid. A haunted treasure seeker...
Over the course of an hour and a half he tells us of an orphaned child thrust into the care of a mysterious uncle; a man versed in secret ways of an olde, forgotten world and harbouring dreams of immortality – but at a terrible price.
Of a man who went in search of history and unearthed far more than he bargained for. A relic that should have remained undisturbed for all time.
Still out there somewhere, presumably, although well guarded. Watched over.
A privilege, at Preston’s New Continental on Thursday night, to see the grand panjandrum and actor Robert Lloyd Parry reprise the role of author MR James – first brought to wider attention in the excellent BBC documentary on this undisputed master of the uncanny – in his touring show ‘A Warning to the Curious’.
Mr Parry brought to life for our fearful enjoyment a pair of classic MR James chillers – that titular tale and the similarly eerie ‘Lost Hearts’ – both filmed by the Beeb in the 1970s (poor old Harry Grout), both told in much the same way as James would famously tell them to friends and colleagues more than 80 years ago.
The effect was spellbinding, and should this Nunkie Theatre Company production pass your way I have no hesitation in recommending you take advantage.
But please. Heed this advice. Should your route home entail a walk through a darkened park, take a torch.
Walk quickly. Keep your head down and on no account pause to look into the darkness.
Whatever you might hear...