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Ghost Walk of the Lanes
Published on Monday, 07 May 2012

4 stars

MEET: The Druid's Head
1-5, 8-12, 15-19, 22-26, 29-30 May, 7:30pm-8:40pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Family-friendly. Suitable for all ages.

Brighton’s Lanes: an historic centre, an inscrutable labyrinth, and of course, a modern-day tourist trap.  It is, in short, the perfect place for a ghost tour.  And on this entertaining trail – which packs a lot of storytelling into a comparatively short walk – we learned all about the city’s resident spooks, as we weaved our way back and forth through the squares and alleyways of the old town.

On the night I attended, our tour guide was Julian Clapp, one of three men who run the event throughout the year.  The top-hatted Clapp played his role with theatrical relish, milking the stories for all their melodrama (and a few appalling puns).  The deliberate over-acting grew a tiny bit wearing, I confess – fun the first few times, then a little bit too reminiscent of a children’s TV show – but I always looked forward to the moment when Clapp, black cape swirling, revealed the latest item from his Gladstone bag of props.  Watch out for my favourite, the faintly gross comedy routine with a swinging head on a chain.

We can’t, of course, blame our tour guide for the quality of the city’s ghosts, but it has to be said that Brighton’s hauntings aren’t the most blood-curdling in the world.  Never mind; the tour’s played for fun, not for thrills, and there’s a warming sense of self-conscious deprecation underpinning the purportedly historical tales.  Indeed, some of the funniest moments came when Clapp dropped out of character to acknowledge his stories’ more obvious inconsistencies; yes, he was pulling the wool over our eyes, but we were willingly playing along.

Towards the end, in fact, Clapp had me ooh’ing and ahh’ing on cue; he knows how to gee up an audience, and seemed to draw all of his small crowd in.  Of course, it’ll only work if you choose to let it, and confirmed cynics will doubtless just roll their eyes the whole way round.  For the rest of us, there are plenty of laughs, a few genuine historical footnotes, and a handful of modest scares.  I enjoyed myself immensely… and if I ever fancy another encounter with the city’s ghosts, this is who I’m gonna call.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.