NeuNoir return with EF Benson’s The Outcast

NeuNoir theatre company return with The Outcast, an intimate reading of two chilling ‘spook stories’ by horror writer E.F. Benson.

After her younger fortune-hunting husband commits suicide, a 40-something widow relocates to a small country town in The Outcast. She’s charming, witty, sociable, well-dressed, beautiful, and seemingly the perfect companion. Yet those in her vicinity often find her eerily and inexplicably detestable – though none can explain why.

Could it be that her new home is, as rumoured, haunted? Or is something else at play?

Complementing The Outcast, the night also includes a reading of the macabre The Thing In The Hall, in which a spirit has been tempted into this world after a seance – but what kind of elemental spirit, no-one is certain.

A prolific writer, Edward Frederic Benson (1867-1940) was the son of Birmingham-born Edward White Benson (later the Archbishop of Canterbury). Best known for his popular Dodo and Mapp And Lucia series, EF also authored numerous biographies, as well as many short stories. Among these shorts were dozens of what he referred to as “spook stories” – frightening and creepy yarns that delve into the dark corners of haunted houses, and reveal weird horrific creatures and happenings, often in unexpected everyday places. A master of the horror genre, E.F’s work has been championed by everyone from American writer H.P. Lovecraft, to actor/writer (and horror buff) Mark Gatiss.

First collected in 1923’s Visible And Invisible anthology, The Outcast demonstrates perfectly Benson’s skill at introducing the strange into the everyday, while The Thing In The Hall (as featured in 1912’s The Room In The Tower And Other Stories) warns of the dangers of dabbling in the unknown.

Having gripped audiences with Carnacki – The Ghost Finder in 2021, actor Richard Usher (Sweet Cherry Publishing’s Sherlock Holmes audiobooks; BBC Radio; The Lost Hancocks: Vacant Lot) returns to ensure attendees are suitably spooked … again.

In the words of EF Benson: “Fear is the most absorbing and luxurious of emotions. One forgets all else if one is afraid.”

For more details, and the latest performances, see: neunoir.wordpress.com

NeuNoir actor Richard Usher

About NeuNoir

NeuNoir is a West Midlands-based theatre company. With their roots in Birmingham Comedy Festival – where they produced the first ever touring stage productions based on BBC radio’s The Goon Show and premiered a previously lost Tony Hancock sitcom as The Lost Hancocks: Vacant Lot. The company was formed out of a desire to create work outside of comedy.

NeuNoir’s debut production was 2021’s Carnacki: The Ghost Finder, a chilling Edwardian tale of Holmesian intrigue and the supernatural based on the work of early-20th century fantasy/ horror author WH Hodgson. The Outcast, by EF Benson, is their second production, and debuts over Halloween 2022.

Twitter: @neunoirtheatre

Web: neunoir.wordpress.com

Writer EF Benson – from Harper’s Weekly, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

About EF Benson

Edward Frederic Benson was born in Berkshire, in 1867.

His father was Birmingham-born Edward White Benson, the son of a local chemical manufacturer who became the first headmaster of Wellington College and was later appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. While at college, E.W. co-founded The Cambridge Association for Spiritual Inquiry (aka The Cambridge Ghost Society) to investigate reports of ghosts, and one of his reports on hauntings was used by Henry James for The Turn Of The Screw. E.F.’s mother was Mary Sidgwick, who later preferred to be addressed as ‘Ben’. After E.W’s death, she set up household with Lucy Tait, daughter of the previous Archbishop of Canterbury.

One of six siblings, E.F’s younger brother Arthur ‘A.C.’ Benson penned the words to Land Of Hope And Glory, while another sibling, Robert, later became a Catholic priest and wrote dystopian novel Lord Of The World, while sister Margaret was a noted Egyptologist.

A contemporary of that other great British ghost story writer M.R. James, E.F. attracted widespread attention with 1893’s Dodo, a frivolous study of Edwardian society, and went on to gain even greater acclaim with six comic Mapp And Lucia novels, published between 1920-1939.

The author of nearly 100 books, including biographies of Queen Victoria, William Gladstone, Charlotte Brontë and Sir Francis Drake, he also authored dozens of what he called “spook stories”, including vampire tale Mrs. Amworth, and The Bus-Conductor (later adapted for 1945 Ealing horror anthology Dead Of Night and TV series The Twilight Zone).

In his seminal essay, Supernatural Horror In Literature, writer H. P. Lovecraft described E.F’s stories as “lethally potent” and praised his “singular power” – a statement echoed by Mark Gatiss, who has praised E.F’s “unique power” and imagination.

Awarded an OBE in 1938, E.F. – who was also an accomplished figure skater, competing at international level – died in 1940. He was buried in Rye, East Sussex, where he’d been Mayor from 1934-1937.

Now a National Trust property, Lamb House, E.F’s Rye home for over 20 years, was previously home to Henry James, while Rumer Golden (Black Narcissus) was also another noted literary tenant.

Performances

Friday 28 October 2022
Stourbridge Town Hall, Wollaston Studio, Crown Centre, Crown Lane, Stourbridge DY8 1YE.
Doors: 6.45pm. Start: 7.30pm.
Tickets £10.
Box Office: 01384 812812.
Tickets/ information: boroughhalls.co.uk

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