New version of classic M.R. James ghost story

Mark Jardine & Jack Wilkinson.
Photo: Pamela Raith
Mark Jardine & Jack Wilkinson. Photo: Pamela Raith

Oh Whistle And I’ll Come To You, the best loved tale by the father of the modern ghost story M.R. James, is set to chill an Oundle audience on Monday, in a brand new stage adaptation by visionary playwright David Rudkin at the Stahl Theatre.

Described by the Observer as ‘Britain’s greatest living dramatic poet’, Rudkin’s spine- tingling adaptation uncannily marks both 80 years since the death of M.R. James, and Rudkin’s own 80th birthday year.

The play follows Professor Parkins who, on a peaceful coastal retreat, discovers an ancient whistle with a soul-stirring inscription urging him not to blow it. After ignoring this warning, the professor starts to see and hear things that go against his rational judgement. It soon becomes clear that Parkins is far from alone…

The play’s director, Theresa Keogh, said: “There are few stories as beloved as M. R. James’ ghost story, but David Rudkin’s version doesn’t disappoint. He has taken M. R. James’ nightmare universe and crafted a uniquely fresh and chilling world; a tour de force of writing uniting both writers at the height of their powers. A play for the most devoted M.R James fans and newcomers alike.”

New Perspectives Artistic Director, Jack McNamara, added: “Following on from our international success with Rudkin’s The Lovesong of Alfred J Hitchcock both here and in New York, we are delighted to be working with this incredibly distinctive writer again. Oh Whistle is a brilliantly simple ghost story, yet Rudkin manages to bring out such depth, humour and complexity in his new version. With Theresa Keogh as director, whose production of Unforgettable was a hit for us last year, this world premiere will be in brilliant hands.”

David Rudkin says of his adaptation: “With M.R. James, when his horror comes onstage – the demon, apparition, or whatever – we have to ask, and try to answer, what is it? What does it want? (James)… empowers us to see in almost any object thereafter an unspeakable menace.”

Mark Jardine, who previously worked with New Perspectives in their one man show How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won The F.A. Cup, is returning in the role of the unfortunate Professor Parkins.

Jack Wilkinson is also returning to New Perspectives too in the role of Hobbis, after working on a rehearsed reading in Eyam, Derbyshire, of another David Rudkin text, Here We Stay.

Oh Whistle And I’ll Come To You begins its Northamptonshire leg of the tour at the Stahl Theatre, Oundle, on Monday (14th) November, before moving on to Helmdon Reading Room and Gretton Village Hall.

Tickets cost £10 - £12 and are available at www.stahltheatre.org.uk, tel 01832 273930.