Shakespeare Memorial Room, Birmingham Central Library

DON’T Go Into the Cellar is a new Theatre Company with a growing reputation for period performance. The creative invention of Jonathan Goodwin and Rachel Green, tonight’s presentation was of Gothic horror with “Gothicana”. Their current touring repertoire includes both  more bawdy Victorian romp themes  in “Ghouls Aloud”,  and the Sherlock Holmes legend .

The setting, in the Shakespeare Memorial Room, part of the Birmingham Central Library complex could not have been more apposite or magnificent. A barrel vaulted ceiling looks down on towering glass fronted bookcases with  books steeped in antiquity and learning. Wood panelling and marquetry abound.

Narrator and MC for the evening was Dave Francis as Dr Caligari, a tall, yet stooped, character with an eastern European accent seemingly from Transylvania who linked proceedings well, and injected some welcome humour into the evening. Local actress Lorna Meehan gave brooding performances of “A Burial” in a strong start, and later with, Emily Bronte’s “The Night is Darkening”,a piece she clearly relished.


Centrepiece of the show was M.R.James’s  ghost story, “The Ash Tree” set at Castringham Hall in Suffolk. Jonathan Goodwin delivered the tale with style and aplomb in a wonderfully nuanced interpretation of the tale in which he held a hushed audience for almost half an hour, the physical surroundings helped the atmosphere enormously. The extended applause was richly deserved.

Following such an intense piece was going to be a tricky task but an Edgar Alan Poe section achieved that, first with Gary Archer as Poe with “A Letter to Virginia Poe” (and later to George Eveleth), and then with Jade Cole delivering  my favourite piece of the evening with “The Raven”. Shrouded in black she stalked the floor, enthralled the audience, rattled the doors and generally did everything she could to bring a superb poem alive – she succeeded totally.

A splendid evening’s entertainment, replete with period costume and suitably haunting background music, “Gothicana” is an original concept, very well realised. Together with “Ghouls Aloud”, it runs on the last Tuesday and Thursday of the month, “Gothicana “ on the Tuesday, with guest actors and artists rotating around the core cast to ensure that each night’s performance, and material, is unique. For more information on the Company and forthcoming shows:


Gary Longden

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