Inside the world’s most haunted theatre t.co/mKaXiYvHyL. As we all isolate one wonders what the theatre ghosts are up to as theatres up and down the country lie dark . Have you played a haunted theatre? ( I have ) Ask @westendproducer RT— Robert Gray (@robertgray16)
I have always been a fan of theatrical ghost stories. Theatre is filled with superstition and spirits (mainly gin), and there is always something chilling about being the last person backstage. I have heard many ghostly tales over the years, but no theatre seems quite as haunted as Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
This magnificent building is steeped in history, its current site being in continuous use since 1663. The current, fourth theatre is more than 200 years old and, as well as housing thousands of productions over the years, it also houses thousands of ghostly stories.
One of the most famous is the Man in Grey, who apparently haunts the upper circle. He is often sighted by actors during the curtain call, either clapping (if he has enjoyed the show), or walking out through a wall (if he thought it was rubbish). It is said the exact piece of wall he disappears through used to be the door to the upper circle bar in an earlier building. Legend has it that a skeleton was found in the upper circle walls, with a knife lodged into its chest. Perhaps this was the Man in Grey? Or an over-zealous understudy. We will never know, dear.
Another brilliant example of ghostly hauntings is Dan Leno. Larger-than-life Dan is credited with inventing the pantomime dame, which he performed at Drury Lane many times. The only problem with Dan was that he had a bladder problem, and because costumes were never washed in those days, he stank of a toilet. This is not nice in any circumstance, but is made even worse when acting on a hot stage. So night after night his fellow performers had to endure the constant waft of stagnant Dan Leno wee while reciting their wonderfully witty lines.
Thankfully, after tactful hints from his co-stars, Dan invested in a bottle of lavender oil from Covent Garden market, and started dousing his costume with it. This meant Dan didn’t walk on stage smelling of wee, he walked on smelling of lavender-soaked wee. Lovely, dear. Many people at the Lane have said they’ve suddenly gone cold and smelt a strong waft of lavender. Could it just be coincidence? Or could it be Dan mincing by?
Finally, Charles Macklin – a notoriously bad-tempered Irish company manager – is perhaps one of the spookiest of the Drury Lane ghosts. There have been reports of actors being pushed off stage, hats being thrown off bactors (bad actors), and words being whispered at people. The best story linked to Charles is about a dancer who kept getting pulled into a different onstage position by something invisible night after night. Shocked and scared, on the third night this dancer just stepped straight into the position she’d been pulled into, and Charles whispered into her ear: “Congratulations, you’ve found centre stage, dear!”
I imagine all the ghosts are having a wonderful time during this lockdown. Prancing around the stage, feeling theatre is their own once again. But I had a chat with Dan Leno yesterday, and he hopes actors get back soon, because he’s bored and needs someone to haunt again, dear.
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