Saturday, 20 December 2008

20 December - Do you like to be scared?

Christmas has long been a time for telling tales around a roaring fire on a cold winter's night. There is, of course, the story of the Nativity, as related through the Bible, but another favourite of the festive season is the ghost story!

Probably the most well-known Christmas ghost story is Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, but it is by no means the only one. Some of the best Christmas ghost stories were written by M. R. James (1862-1936). Many of them were intended for reading aloud, to select gatherings of friends, as Christmas Eve entertainments.

So accomplished a write of ghost stories was he, that his method of story-telling is now known as Jamesian. The classic Jamesian tale includes a characterful setting, a nondescript and rather naive gentleman-scholar protagonist, and the discovery of an old book or other antiquarian object that results in attracting the unwanted attention of some supernatural menace, usually from beyond the grave. James' intention was always to, 'put the reader into the position of saying to himself: "If I'm not careful, something of this kind may happen to me!"'

Continuing in this Jamesian vein, this Christmas, BBC Four will be screening Crooked House, a haunting tale of three sumptuous ghost stories woven together for a spooky Christmas treat, written by Mark Gatiss (The League Of Gentlemen) and directed by Damon Thomas (Beethoven).

Shot in HD, Crooked House boasts a wonderfully diverse cast which includes Julian Rhind-Tutt (Green Wing), Mark Gatiss, Philip Jackson (Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk To Finchley), Lee Ingleby (George Gently), Jean Marsh (Sense And Sensibility), Samuel Barnett (Beautiful People), Daniela Denby-Ashe (My Family), Anna Madeley (Brideshead Revisited) and, in his debut dramatic role, illusionist Derren Brown as the mysterious Sir Roger Widdowson.

In addition to writing and co-producing the drama, Gatiss takes the role of a museum curator with an in-depth knowledge of the fictional Geap Manor, stretching through Tudor, Georgian, the Twenties and contemporary times.

When school teacher Ben unearths an old door knocker in the garden of his new home, the curator suggests it may come from the now-demolished house. A house reputed to be haunted... Intrigued, Ben prompts the curator to tell him some of stories about the house and so begins a journey through time.

A corrupt Georgian businessman finds something unexpected in the woodwork of his new home. In the Twenties, a young couple's happy engagement party is spoiled by the spectre of a ghostly bride. And, back in the present day, Ben soon finds himself in darker, more dangerous waters than he could possibly have foreseen...

Mark Gatiss says of Crooked House: "Ever since I was a child and thrilled to the BBC's classic MR James adaptations, I've dreamt of sending a festive shiver down the nation's spine. I'm delighted to finally have the opportunity. A fantastic cast and crew have worked incredibly hard to fulfil this long held dream."

Did you know...?
On this day in 2007, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II became the oldest ever monarch of the United Kingdom, surpassing Queen Victoria, who lived for 81 years, 7 months and 29 days.

No comments: