While a tour of haunted London spots may not be an instinctive theme for a December walk, Ghost Walk does begin next to a big glowing snowflake in shimmery Broadgate. The innovative Poltergeist Theatre has given us the gift of an audio walk in the City of London that is a creative look into what might be lurking behind the gates and above the buildings around us. Entertaining us in an outdoor format that is perhaps especially welcome in the current climate, Poltergeist invites us to see the otherwise deserted streets – on the weekend, that is – as a stage, with our imagination part of the cast too.
Mary, the leader of the pack of ghosts you meet along the way, sends you around to invite her friends to a party. In each of the subsequent conversations you get to know each ghost’s story: how they died, what they’re up to these days, and whether or not they can come along to the party. These responses are initially quite formulaic, and you do feel a little like a hot potato as you’re sent away to ask another friend. As you settle into the walk, though, you start to get to know how each character relates to another, and you can become invested in whether any sparks will fly at the party.
Ghost Walk is produced with New Diorama Theatre, which has a new space in Broadgate to offer resources to independent artists in a post-pandemic world. Aside from this connection with the area, the City of London is the perfect location for Ghost Walk to take place – the walk brings life (or rather, afterlife?) to an otherwise pretty lifeless area: filled with scurrying suits during the week, and not much else at the weekend.
This is an experience suitable for all ages, so the whole family can come along to meet Mary and her friends. This did mean, though, that the walk was less spooky than I expected: it was more of a winding tale than a tour of the phantom residents of the area. Another dimension of the haunted atmosphere might have come from more specific references to the area and what has gone on there, as you might expect from a ghost walk in Baker Street, for example. As you walk around listening to the ghosts’ stories, you wonder what these streets were once filled with: what other stories could be written about these old haunts?
Still, not only is a walk-as-performance a very apt way to put on a show in 2021, it is also very enjoyable to put a story to buildings, statues and gardens that you wouldn’t otherwise stop and stare at. My favourite visual was the story of (the ghost of) a poet who resides on a wooden chair under a tree – certainly a fortunate find for mapping out a ghost walk. As you make your way from one potential party guest to another, you are accompanied by an eerie soundtrack (designed by Alice Boyd) that sets the tone of your path. Now that I think about it, it could be interesting to walk around London with some spooky background music just to see what stories jump out – perhaps another monk trapped in a statue, or a rockstar circling around the park before band practice.
Ghost Walk is an enjoyable, eye- and ear-opening experience, and an opportunity to add another layer to a historically rich part of London. I would certainly be interested in attending another edition of the walk in a different part of London, ready to lend a helping hand to Mary’s counterpart.
Ghost Walk was on outside New Diorama Theatre 9th-11th December. More info here.