I love the theatre world, and the colourful and fun characters that inhabit it. BUT one gripe I have is the excessive and over the top superstition theatre folk have. I suppose part of it is no different to any group of people who have their own traditions and words and rituals that identify you as part of their group. However you can’t seem to do anything in a theatre without someone saying “don’t do that, it’s bad luck”.
The most common superstitions that I know and have experienced are:
- Not saying Macbeth. Apparently it’s a cursed play, but I think the fact it’s still being performed puts pay to that one.
- Leaving a light on stage even when the theatre is dark (shut). Not superstitious just common sense, theatres are dangerous places and walking in to a pitch black theatre with props, ropes, weights, orchestra pits and trap doors is not a good idea. This tradition (allegedly to help the theatres ghosts see where they’re going) is proof that the theatrical world was well ahead of our current obsession with Health and Safety.
- Never saying “good luck.” Saying “break a leg”, is still as popular as ever. The reason for this saying is shrouded in mystery and I’ve heard all sorts; from Abraham Lincoln’s assassin breaking his leg on his escape (thanks for that explanation Saskia!), to breaking the line of your body/leg as you bow, to my favourite which is that the actors should need to bow/curtsey so much at the end of the show they will break their legs.
- Every theatre having a ghost. When I performed at the Jermyn Street Theatre, I recall a VERY creepy sound akin to wailing in my dressing room. I asked the Stage Manager about it and they matter of factly said, “oh that’s just the ghost – don’t worry they’re a friendly ghost.” I assume he’s called Casper then?
As it is Halloween today, should any of you fancy a theatrical fright here are my recommendations:
Top of the list is The Phantom of the Opera, playing all over the world, and a thrilling musical with a few scenes that’ll make you jump. There is a scene where a backdrop crashes to the floor (it’s meant to) and I was recently speaking to an actress that had played Christine and she spoke about how one night it came crashing down on her. She was quite badly injured but lived to tell the tale and resume her career on stage thankfully.
This play is still scaring audiences every night in London, and the recent film version has taken the spine tingling story to many more. I still think the theatrical experience can be more scary though.
The above production of The Picture of Dorian Gray, is getting rave reviews, I read Act 1 this morning and think it’s a great adaptation (I’ll read Act 2 tomorrow). I’d like to get over to Dublin to see it but don’t think I’m going to get a chance to. Let’s hope it comes to London soon.
Finally if you are in Moscow you can catch Ghost Stories as it opened there the other week. An homage to the whole horror genre and certainly contains its moments to make you jump.
Have a happy Halloween – break a leg