So on New Year’s Eve Canterville went very well – or so I believe, because I spent a good chunk of it in the green room, discussing Emma Rice’s tenure at the Globe with Nina and her husband… From there we could hear the audience laughing heartily through the intercom, though, and there were no funny stories afterwards, so I’m pretty sure that all went well…
Until the end, that is – when we all filed into the audience, just in time to see it: at the second curtain call, half of the curtain saw it fit to jam shut, and had to be dragged open manually, and kept there by our Mr. Stubbins, the Butler, so that the actors could take their bow and get their applause.
A minor nuisance, no doubt, but the umpteenth in a long line. Which we discussed later at dinner, and I said I thought it a little peevish on Sir Simon’s part, considering the play’s resounding success so far (and the all but fully booked house to the end of the run)…
“So I really don’t see what he has to be displeased about,” I groused.
“Ah, but you see…” Giovanni the Head Electrician held up a hand. “It’s not Sir Simon at all. It’s the Countess.”
And he was right, of course – old hand that he is. Because the fact is, the Tiny Theatre is housed in what were once the stables of one of Mantova’s many noble palaces – one that is said to be haunted. I think I’ve said that my unimaginative town has only one”official” ghost story? Well, this is one of the few unofficial ones: the Old Countess of Arco, roaming the upper floors of her palace at night.
Giovanni even says he found himself face to face with her once, many years ago… And yes, it’s theatre-folk we are talking about, and we all know how they love to tell a tale. But it is a fact that, to this day, Giovanni won’t stay alone upstairs at night, if he can help it. And when, on New Year’s Eve, he suggested that maybe the Countess is being difficult out of plain old jealousy, and will be until I write her own play, he was only half in jest.
Which of course led to everyone trading ghost stories in the dead of night, just there in a haunted palace – and not any night, either, but one of those when the veil between worlds is supposed to be thinner…
But lo! I think I have my backstage ghost story, after all. Do you think it would appease the Countess if we were to write and stage it?