The Chichester Players would like nothing better than to send you home with nightmares.
Their latest production, the premiere of The Guest by Chichester’s Joseph Saxon, will give you the shivers – and leave you definitely disturbed.
It taps into the horror genre adored by Joe and by his director and collaborator Rick Brookes, also from Chichester.
The Guest plays at the New Park Centre, Chichester from December 4-7 at 7.30pm – on the back of a publicity campaign which has seen stickers appearing just about anywhere and everywhere in the city.
As Rick explains: “About a year ago, maybe longer, we conceived the story in a pub after rehearsals with the Chichester Players. We have a shared passion for horror and chills.
“It’s just something I have always enjoyed. I was exposed to some fairly nasty horror by my brother when I was about seven, and I just enjoyed the atmosphere.
“We came up with the idea that maybe it would be fresh and new for the Chichester Players to incorporate some of those aspects.”
Films are among the inspirations; so too is the stage show, The Woman In Black.
For playwright Joe, the inspiration is also from writer John Wyndham. Wyndham would probably be seen as more sci-fi than horror, but for Joe the point is a fascination with normal life with one significant change.
“You think everything is normal apart from one aspect that can be horror or supernatural...”
Joe sets the scene: “It’s a woman being interviewed by a mysterious figure about events that happened. It is unclear what happened, but through this woman, memories are visualised on stage.
“Something awful has happened in this restaurant, something terrible through the arrival of a mysterious guest that we are led to believe is not human. The big central mystery is what is this guest.”
Director Rick will be determined to create the chills.
“I directed The Crucible for the Chichester Players a couple of years ago, and a few people I spoke to found it quite a nightmarish production.”
For Rick, sound design will be key: “There will be a big focus on sound design as a way to manipulate the audience. A lot of it is very human, but there are flashes of weirdness that sets it all off kilter. It gives you a skewed reality.”
“But you don’t know whether the events happened or she is making them up,” Joe says. “I think she is a very interesting character. She is neurotic. She is sharp, and she is uncompromising. It is unclear whether she is insane or not.”
Rick added: “It’s a cast of eight which is relatively unusual for a big production like the winter one that the Chichester Players do, but each of them has a very specific role to play, and Chrissie Lieurance (who is playing the woman at the centre of it all) is really getting her teeth into it. She has been working really hard on what makes this character tick.”
Joe and Rick admit it is difficult to know in advance what will scare the audience: “But that’s the aim,” Rick says. “It’s a gamble. But we want them to go home with nightmares.”
Joe added: “The story is very self-contained. Because it all hinges on the big reveal at the end, it has a very complex structure that does not unveil itself. The whole thing is a riddle...”
Joe already has one novel under his belt, which he wrote for his MA. He is currently writing a second novel.
Tickets for The Guest are available on 01243 786650.