|Phantoms in their thirteenth year
||[Jan. 7th, 2017|06:56 pm]
Introducing last night's Phantoms at the Phil, Gail-Nina claimed to have no idea how implausibly many times this event, at which three writers read new ghost stories to a packed audience, has been held. Sean O'Brien offered an alternative statistic: it was now in its thirteenth year. Back home and checking the records, I make it fourteen years, but thirteen Christmases: there was always a struggle to schedule the early sessions into the busy days before Christmas, and eventually inspiration struck, and now Phantoms is the last event of the seasonal calendar, held on January 6th, which I have finally been persuaded is not Twelfth Night at all (mostly by valydiarosada counting on her fingers: Christmas Day is the first day of Christmas...) but the feast of the Epiphany.
Thematically, that works just fine: apparitions, epiphanies, the awful realisation that something is not what it seems (or worse, that it is precisely what it seems)... Last night started with Gail-Nina Anderson's The Landscape of Memory, about which she was immensely and unnecessarily nervous, outside her comfort zone in having set aside a humorous piece to write a haunting little character study of a woman with a gift for reading the fortunes of others, but less clear sight about herself. "Next time," she says, "I'm definitely doing The Haunted Handbag." And that'll be fine too, but I'm glad she took this risk. In The Aspen Grove, Sean O'Brien treated the flaws of his hapless protagonist with humour right up to the point where things weren't funny any more. And Debbie Taylor's Three Places are locations of which Lydia is afraid, within her compound in an African village. The fear comes first, and only as the story nears its end does the cause of the fear become clear, to Lydia and to the audience.
Three fine, totally unseasonal stories, and not a traditional ghost among them: and now Christmas is over. Time to write some thankyou letters, sort the Christmas cards, and think about the first of the year's birthdays!