Photo by Ruth Horry

A PLEASING COMPANY:
A Chat with Robert Lloyd Parry

Conducted by Brian J. Showers, © March 2007

Published in Ghosts & Scholars, Issue #12.

BY NOW, EVEN IF YOU have not been paying attention to current events, you will have heard of Robert Lloyd Parry's one-man show A Pleasing Terror: Two Ghost Stories by M.R. James, and its seemingly endless parade of positive reviews [Footnote 1]. The show itself is deceptively simple, yet resolutely effective: Lloyd Parry, as M.R. James, retells "Canon Alberic's Scrap-book" and "The Mezzotint", creating an atmosphere as close to the original Chit-Chat Society tellings as you are likely to get. At the time of this writing in March 2007, after a 34-date fall/winter tour, Lloyd Parry is preparing for a 6-night run at Dublin's Andrews Lane Theatre.

I first saw A Pleasing Terror in St Alban's in October 2006, and it impressed me from the start. Lloyd Parry and I had been corresponding over the previous couple of months, and so it was arranged that after the performance my companions and I would meet up with him for a post-show drink at a nearby pub. I remember our conversation when we first spied Lloyd Parry across the lobby: "I don't think that's him at all--he's much too tall". For a man who so thoroughly becomes James for an hour and a half, Lloyd Parry's imposing stature could not have been more unexpected [Footnote 2]. He is in his mid-30s and stands around six and a half feet tall. When he speaks, his accent is more neutral, perhaps with a hint of his native Lancashire, rather than the exaggerated academic articulation he uses for James during the show. And Lloyd Parry's first words to me in this unexpected accent were: "That's funny--I thought you'd be much older".

Lloyd Parry's company was more than agreeable that night, and we talked for a couple of hours on not only the show, but also a whole range of ghostly subjects. In retrospect, I should have written down a few of the things he said, for our conversation essentially amounted to an interview, a thought that did not occur to me until later. This present interview was conducted via e-mail, and I tried to recall some of the same questions I asked that night.

We met a second time the weekend of his show in Tinahely, Wicklow, which I travelled down from Dublin to see. During this meeting (which would probably be more accurately described as a blurry succession of pubs), Lloyd Parry told me that, after one of his shows in Cambridge, he was approached by an elderly gentleman who had once met James. A student at Eton in his youth, this man had breakfasted with and photographed the Provost for a local publication. I urged Lloyd Parry to track the man down for an interview, which no doubt would be of great interest to all of Ghosts & Scholars' readership. I guess after divulging that tantalising tidbit I've pretty much committed you to writing that article now, huh, Robert? More...

Footnotes

1. For my positive review of the show at the Courthouse Arts Centre in Tinahely, Wicklow, see the March 2007 issue of the Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies.

2. Does anyone know how tall James was anyway?


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