Could Play’s Seance Scene Summon Up Spirits Haunting Newport Theatre?

August 13, 2012

Ghosts in a Newport theatre are playing a spooky role in rehearsals for a play in which a medium holds a séance and summons up a spirit from the past. Actors from Newport Playgoers preparing for Noel Coward’s witty comedy ‘Blithe Spirit’ are concerned that their onstage séance may disturb the two ghosts that are said to haunt the Dolman Theatre.

Newport Playgoers' production of 'Blithe Spirit' photos by Phil Mansell

Clare Drewett as medium Madame Arcati holds a séance during rehearsals for ‘Blithe Spirit’. (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

The main ghost, nick-named Aggie, is said to be a woman who lived in a house on the site where the Dolman Theatre was built in 1965, and apparently she wasn’t keen to leave her home prior to its demolition. She has made her presence felt in the theatre ever since.

Audrey Aston, who lived in the theatre when her husband John was the warden, recalled, “I often passed the kitchen and heard someone washing up – but when I went in to say hello there would be no-one there. I vividly remember the night a member of Playgoers came up to me, as white as a sheet, and said that she’d been alone in the council room and someone had whispered in both her ears. She was absolutely terrified!

“It was also strange that our cat, Tammy, would never go into the theatre. When we tried to take her in, her hackles would rise as if she was scared of something in there.”

Newport Playgoers' production of 'Blithe Spirit' photos by Phil Mansell

Charles Condomine (DavidConstant) accidentally summons up the spirit of his first wife, Elvira (Eloise Rossiter) much to the annoyance of his second wife Ruth (Rosamund Jones-Griffiths)
(PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

Audrey’s grandson Dan, who is the theatre’s deputy manager, has also had some eerie experiences. He said, “When I lock up at night I’ve checked the building to make sure it’s empty, but I still hear footsteps. When I investigate there’s no-one there. It used to spook me at first but now I just think ‘Oh that’s only Aggie.”

Newport Playgoers' production of 'Blithe Spirit' photos by Phil Mansell

A spooky moment in the play as Madame Arcati summons up a ghost (PHOTO: PHIL MANSELL)

The other ghost is said to be that of Eric Lane who stage managed many productions years ago. During rehearsals he would puff away on his pipe and today many Playgoers say they can smell his pipe tobacco in parts of the theatre.

Playgoer Chris Bissex-Williams remembers the time he was standing onstage with Eric’s widow, Lorraine. “She suddenly said ‘Eric’s here’ and straightaway I could smell the very distinctive pipe tobacco that he used to smoke wafting across the stage.”

Clare Drewett, who plays the medium Madame Arcati in ‘Blithe Spirit’, said, “I’ve had quite a few psychic experiences in my life and when I’m doing the séance scenes it worries me that I’m going to summon up a real ghost. During one rehearsal I had a very real sense that there was someone there watching us, and the other night I heard a woman singing in one of the empty rehearsal rooms. It’s just like something out of the TV programmes about the most haunted places in Britain. I think they should come and do one from the Dolman Theatre!”

To check out the ghosts for yourself – both real and onstage – go to see ‘Blithe Spirit’ which is at the Dolman Theatre from 12th – 15th September at 7.15 pm, with an extra matinee performance on the Saturday at 2.30 pm. To book tickets call 01633 263670 or visit www.dolmantheatre.co.uk.  New members are always welcome to become involved both onstage and behind the scenes.