In Autmn 1988, with Ean D’Albion as Director, I became a founder member of Gothic Relief Theatre Company, resident at the Assembly Rooms, Glastonbury.
As the blurb on the leaflets went:-
“Gothic Relief are concentrating mainly on producing Gothic Melodramas from original Georgian and early Victorian scripts. Our aim is to treat as wide an audience as possible to an evening of live entertainment that is an historical experience as well as good theatre. Our material comes from the times of the most prolific people’s theatre in British history, and our first season of performances have proved very popular, enticing people to come to the theatre for the first time.
We believe that atmosphere is the most important aspect of what we are doing. The days of sterile theatres like doctor’s waiting rooms are definately over for us. Gothic Relief are determined to produce shows that will bring people from all walks of life back into the theatre. The Assembly Rooms is perfect for this and we intend to perform in church halls, historic buildings, community centres and schools, in order to attract a wider audience than just regular theatre-goers.
Our influences include Rutland Boughton, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Mervyn Peake and Ken Russell, and in our publicity material and set design Gustav Dore, M.C. Escher and of course William Blake. Musical influences are just as diverse, from Bach or Grieg to Vaughan Williams string concertos and the modern atmospherics of Frank Zappa or The Cure.”
“What is Gothic Theatre?
The Gothic is defined by a sense that one is in the presence of forces overwhelmingly beyond our own. Something epic, timeless, universal, or generally larger than life resides in the assumptions upon which a Gothic work is built. In the dramatic ritual of shared belief, guided by the players, followed by the audience, the Gothic plants its mark of supernatural awe with greatest effect. The drama of human emotions writ larger than life upon the canvas of the stage; terror and pity evoked clearly, without the clutter of subtle euphemisms social etiquettes demand – these are the arena of gothic theatre; whether, mouths agape, the audience drink in the action in dread earnest, or, with the merest shift of emphasis in the arts of the thespian, they gain bright release from the terror through laughter and pantomime mockery, or bring to a point of poignant focus the pity that runs wetly from an eye misted by the spectacle of pathos.
A piece of Gothic theatre is no wry commentary upon a few moments in the lives of a few individuals, at a particular time and in a particular place. Its broad brush-stroke sweeping surface culture aside, gothic drama is a global event, enacted by the occupants of the theatre. If a monster greets you at the door, or a Vampire syringes thick red liquid into your glass, if a monk serves you tea or a pirate shows you to your seat, you have entered the arena of Gothic Relief Theatre. You are in good company.”
The programs, leaflets and fliers included here were all written, in conjunction with the Director, and designed by myself, on Richard Oldfield’s Apple Mac Classic, using the first versions of Aldus PageMaker and later also Adobe Photoshop.
In February 1989 I played Strutt in H.M. Milner’s 1826 script, “Frankenstein“, directed by Ean D’Albion, at the Assembly Rooms.
In June 1989, I played the Vampire in J.R. Planche’s 1825 script, “The Vampire“, directed by Ean D’Albion. This was an enormous success, attracting full houses for the whole run, and sufficient local acclaim for a sequel:
“The Return of the Vampire,” written by myself and Ean D’Albion, was performed in a marquee in the car park of the Rifleman’s Arms, Glastonbury, October 1989, directed by Ean D’Albion.
In February 1990, I played the monk, Francesco, who takes “The Devil’s Elixir“, in Edward Fitz-Ball’s 1823 script, directed by Ean D’Albion, at the Assembly Rooms.
In March 1990, I took the comic lead, Peter von Bummell, in Fitz-Ball’s 1825 farce, “The Flying Dutchman“, directed by Ean D’Albion, at the Assembly Rooms. This was the original show upon which many an opera and film has later been based. Some three minutes of footage, including the main theme song, were broadcast on BBC South-West on the evening of the first night.
In June 1990, I played Dr. Frankenstein in “The Death of Frankenstein” written by myself and Ean D’Albion, in the Theatre Field at the Glastonbury Festival, each night, at midnight, on a huge stage, with a firework finale.