Looking back at…The Scare Slam & Halloween Tales

Halloween Tales, 30th October – 1st November 2014, The Selkirk Upstairs

‘You think it’s all me and it’s not. It’s not always me.’

It starts as a normal night-shift – and then you start to see double…

Duncan Gates’ chilling short play, Fetch, alongside some spooky fireside stories, formed our first foray into scary short stories. Halloween Tales was almost certainly the spooky seed from which did grow the horror-bloom: Blackshaw’s Annual Scare Slam.

The Whistling Room by William Hope Hodgson, read by M. J. Starling

Wailing Well by M. R. James, read by Duncan Gates

Fetch by Duncan Gates

There’s a bunch of lovely photos, interviews, and behind the scenes joy available to browse.


ROSIE MARSH Ally (Fetch)
M. J. STARLING Storyteller
DUNCAN GATES Storyteller


ELLIE PITKIN Director & Producer
MICHELLE BRISTOW Set & Costume Designer
ANDREW CRANE Sound Design/Tech Operation

The Scare Slam, annually, October 2014-present

From the mind of Blackshaw associate, Helen Stratton, the Scare Slams were born. Over the years (we’ve done 5) the Scare Slam has been performed at The Horse & Stables, The Old Red Lion, and The Pleasance Theatre, as part of the London Horror Festival.

The show has provided a platform for the telling of terrifying short stories and poems. All in the dead of night. To the gentle hiss of a geriatric smoke machine…

Scare Slam 2015

Scare Slam 2016

Scare Slam 2017

Scare Slam 2018

Scare Slam 2019

You can drip some fear into your ear, and listen to the audio of the Scare Slams, whenever you like.

5 Minutes with M.J. Starling

One of Blackshaw’s favourite writers, M.J. Starling, not only agreed to read ‘The Whistling Room’ by William Hope Hodgson for our Halloween Tales production but ALSO agreed to spend a few minutes answering our questions. What a hero.

Why did you decide to pick the William Hope Hodgson story that you’re reading for Halloween Tales?

It was a difficult choice between The Whistling Room and The Gateway of the Monster. (I think my favourite Carnacki the ghost finder story is actually The Hog, but that one would take over an hour to read aloud, plus its copyright situation is a bit fuzzy in the UK.) Gateway features Carnacki’s iconic Electric Pentacle, which Whistling Room only mentions; and Carnacki’s a bit more active in defending himself and defeating the monster in Gateway, too. I could argue that’s why I picked Whistling Room – horror’s scarier when you’re helpless, when the powers involved are just too huge and dangerous to handle – but really? It’s just because I love it so much. It was the first Carnacki story I experienced, and I want it to be that for some people in the audience as well.

What’s the best show you’ve ever been to?

GuruGuru, by Rotozaza (rotozaza.co.uk). It’s a fun, cyberpunky, unspeakably meta, unapologetically experimental little show-in-a-box for an audience of five, who are also the performers. You all wear earbuds that feed you lines to speak to each other and to the sixth character, a computer-genersted disembodied floating head on a screen which is trying to coach you all out of your stage fright. Which sounds a bit gimmicky, but I’ve never seen another show whose format is so perfectly designed to illustrate its subject matter (in this case free will and determinism, with some stuff about outer performativity versus inner selfhood thrown in for added spice), plus it’s both fun and funny. It’s also the show that made me think properly for the first time about theatricality, what constitutes a play or show, and whether the traditional business models of theatre are still the best we can do in the 21st century.

What’s your favourite horror movie?

Ridley Scott’s ALIEN.

What scares you silly?

Shipwrecks. Real ones or fictional ones; seeing them on TV, hearing about them in stories people tell, reading about them in books; ancient wrecks and wrecks in progress: they give me the screaming shivers (me timbers (sorry I make stupid jokes when I’m frightened)). I mean, think about it: a shipwreck is like a haunted house, except it’s haunted by be-tentacled deep-sea horrors as well as drowned spectres. And if you were to visit one, you’d already be out of your element, reliant on fallible breathing equipment to survive, much less well evolved to defend yourself or escape from anything you might find down there. Brr. I think this might stem from a childhood visit to the wreck of the Mary Rose. Even in drydock, I was awestruck by it – this huge, impressive human creation, designed to express and exert power, just destroyed by the sea.

Have you ever had a spooky experience?

Back in school, year 7 or 8, I dreamed one night that one of my friends was trying to axe-murder me. I think I escaped being axe-murdered, but only because he chased me right off a cliff and that woke me up.

So I mentioned this to him the next day at school, and we were laughing about it when another of our friends piped up from the desk behind: this same friend had tried to axe-murder him in a dream as well, that same night.

The dreams hadn’t particularly spooked me or the other dreamer, but the coincidence certainly spooked our friend, who worried for the rest of the day that he might be some kind of living, unwitting, secretly-friend-hating version of Freddy Krueger.

You’re going to a Halloween Party, what are you dressing up as?

Humanity is unique among Earth’s creatures in our ability to comprehend the sheer scale of the universe; and the price we pay for this intellectual superiority is exposure to the soul-crushing revelation of our own cosmic insignificance. So I’d go as that – but you know, like, a sexy version?

Not a lot of people know that…

…if you find yourself in the path of a swarm of bees, you mustn’t run: instead, drop to the ground, lie as flat as possible and let the swarm go over you. You might still get stung, but not nearly as badly as if the swarm thinks you’re in its way.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

There are no guilty pleasures. No one should be made to feel ashamed of enjoying something, unless their enjoyment of it is harming someone else.

I used to buy into this idea as much as the next person, and back at school I felt shame particularly about some of the music I enjoyed (that’s too poppy! that sounds like something tween girls would like! that’s not truly deeply emotional and true and raw enough!) until I realised that had more to do with the snobbishness and, to be frank, sexism that I and my friends of the time were passing off as rational critical thought about music. I feel ashamed of thinking that way back then; I don’t feel a scrap of shame at buying Call Me Maybe, which came in for a fair bit of “criticism” that reminded me of those days.

Don’t forget, you can catch M.J. Starling reading ‘The Whistling Room’ by William Hope Hodgson on 30th October. Tickets for that (and the other two performances) are still available.

5 Minutes with Bryony Tebbutt

Bryony Tebbutt, who’s playing Vic in ‘Fetch’ as a part of our Halloween Tales production, spent a few minutes answering some questions for us.

Bryony Tebbutt, actor playing Vic in 'Fetch'
Bryony Tebbutt, actor playing Vic in ‘Fetch’

What’s your favourite past production that you’ve worked on?

Romeo&Juliet with Antic Disposition, we toured the South of France for two weeks. Sun, storms and Shakespeare, beautiful!

What’s the best show you’ve ever been to?

I adored Warhorse at the National.

What’s your favourite horror movie?


What scares you silly?

Big spiders!!!

You’re going to a Halloween Party, what are you dressing up as?

A decaying fairy, an evil green witch, a headless ghoul. Always something scary!

Have you ever had a spooky experience?

Several, lots of ghost stories in my family. (ed. Bryony also told us that the women in her family can see ghosts and her grandparents used to live in a haunted house!)

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Tea+Digestive biscuits, seriously, packets by the whole!

You can catch Bryony as Vic in ‘Fetch’ by Duncan Gates on 30th, 31st October and 1st November. Get your discounted advance tickets now!

5 Minutes with Rosie Marsh

The lovely Rosie Marsh, who’s playing Ally in Fetch, gave us 5 minutes of her valuable line-learning time to answer our questions.

Rosie Marsh, playing Ally in 'Fetch'
Rosie Marsh, playing Ally in ‘Fetch’

What do you like best about your character?

I think she’s hilarious. She’s not a bad person but she has let life make her bitter, and as a result she’s developed an incredibly sarky, quick persona with some brilliant one-liners. The nasty ones are always the most fun to play.

What’s your favourite past production that you’ve worked on?

Aah, really tough one! Probably for the overall experience, my first Edinburgh experience with the play I co-wrote, ‘twenty something.’ our whole cast were all mates, we were there for a whole month and we had an absolute blast. It wasn’t what most would deem ‘high theatre’ but I loved every minute of it.

What’s the best show you’ve ever been to?

Stop asking tough questions! Too difficult to say, but my favourite recent play was ‘King Charles III’; brilliantly written, funny and thought provoking, everything I like in a play.

What’s your favourite horror movie?

I hate horror movies. But I loved Hocus Pocus- that counts, right? (Blackshaw says: “It totally does”)

What scares you silly?

My own imagination.

You’re going to a Halloween Party, what are you dressing up as?

Im quite good at stage makeup so i like to crack out a zombie at a party; I like that you can go for a few looks with a zombie; zombie princess, zombie firewoman, zombie farmer….you get the idea.

Have you ever had a spooky experience?

Yes. I was lying in bed in our old house in Exeter, just about to turn the light off via the cord above the bed, when someone whispered in my ear ‘are you going to turn out the light?’ I screamed blue murder, and I maintain to this day that that happened!

Not a lot of people know that…

I find spiders so scary I will cry if you bring one too close to me.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

I do love a bit of TOWIE. judge me all you want.

What really grinds your gears?

People eating too loudly. Or eating on the radio. Why?!? It’s disgusting!

Don’t miss Rosie in Fetch as a part of our Halloween Tales on 30th, 31st October and 1st November. Tickets are still available, but not for long.

How to make…a smoking jacket!

Michelle Bristow, our talented Set & Costume designer for Halloween Tales has done a wee photo blog of one of the makes – a smoking jacket.  To see it in action 30th Oct-1st Nov, buy a ticket!

  1. I took the pattern off a single breasted blazer ready to adapt (Yes this is Christmas paper, if you buy it in the sales – much cheaper than pattern paper!) .
  2. As the jacket was single breasted, I had to extend out the front panels to make it double breasted and I sharpened off the corners instead of them being rounded.
  3. Just about to cut out the lining.
  4. Cutting out the lining. I then used these pieces to cut out the top fabric, then I know I’ve got exactly the same seam allowance on all pieces.
  5. This fabric is on the fold so for every piece you see here, there are two in top fabric and two in lining.
  6. Cutting out (feat. my horrible living room carpet)
  7. After cutting out the wadding and matching the pieces, I began quilting the lining. Quilting all the pieces took the best part of three days.
  8. Measuring 2 inch squares as I went along. Halfway through the quilting I felt like it was never going to end, but I’m glad I persisted as the outcome is great and it looks much more extravagant and full.
  9. I was naughty and didn’t take any photos at the fitting but I went with all the pieces safety pinned together, as two people have to wear this jacket it needs to fit both of them, so I didn’t stitch until I’d rearranged all my pins (yes, all of them!).
  10. After I had stitched the seams I trimmed the seam allowance with pinking shears so it would lay flatter and be more neat.
  11. Top fabric sneak preview! I then stitched the collar on, as I fitted the jacket without it.
  12. Top fabric sneak preview! Although inside out, the jacket was beginning to take shape at this point, as we can see how the collar and lapels will lay.
  13. Sleeves in, I was really happy with these because they went in perfect first time, and I’m usually a bit of a sleeve faffer (always fun when you put them in inside out but don’t notice for a while)!
  14. Up until this point the lining and top layer have been separate, so here is me joining them together.
  15. Starting to look more like a jacket here, only the hem, cuffs and decor to do.
  16. Working out how big to make the cuffs based on measurements and markings I made from the fitting.
  17. Cuffs ready to have decoration added to them.
  18. Sewing buttons on the front. A few more decoration details to be added, and the rest will be revealed at Halloween Tales!

5 Minutes with Alex Yaghma

Alex Yaghma, playing Col in ‘Fetch’

The lovely Alex, who plays Col in Fetch, gave us 5 minutes of his time to answer some questions.

What do you like best about your character in Fetch?

What I like best about my character is Col’s naivety, he is completely unsuspecting, nothing unusual ever happens and he wouldn’t notice it if it did.  But he is thrown into a situation he can’t avoid and I like seeing how he deals with it.

What’s your favourite past production that you’ve worked on?

My favourite past production was a production of Othello. By Jove theatre company cast Othello as a woman and took a contemporary look at the struggles of being a woman in a mans world.

What’s the best show you’ve ever been to?

The best show I have ever been to was at the Battersea Arts Centre and it was a spoken word/poetry/music show called Brand New Ancients by Kate Tempest.  It was inspirational, powerful and down to earth.  Art at its most affecting.

What’s your favourite horror movie?

One of my top five, would be Paranormal Activity…not being able to physically fight back against something is really scary.

What scares you silly?

Not many things scare me silly…I usually do the scaring.  I hide and scare my friends a lot.

You’re going to a Halloween party, what are you dressing up as?

If I were going to a Halloween Party I would dress up as my own doppleganger…simple and effective.

Not a lot of people know that…

I’m from Birmingham.

What really grinds your gears?

People repeatedly pressing the ‘open door’ button on the tube…JUST DON’T PRESS IT, IT DOESN’T WORK.

You can see Alex performing as Col in Fetch by Duncan Gates as a part of our Halloween Tales production on 30th, 31st October and 1st November. Tickets available now.

5 Minutes with Ellie Pitkin

Ellie Pitkin, Director of Halloween Tales
Ellie Pitkin, Director of Halloween Tales

Managing and Artistic Director of Blackshaw and Director of Fetch, Ellie Pitkin, lets us grill her for 5 minutes.

Why did you pick Fetch for Halloween Tales?

Duncan initially sent us the play to consider for Wandsworth Arts Festival – we totally loved it but couldn’t find space for it in our WAFF program.  I was really drawn to the effective simplicity of the concept – a chilling story with 3 actors and 1 location – a director’s dream! Halloween Tales is a great way to present a cracking short thriller like Fetch.

What’s your favourite past production that you’ve worked on?

Ooh that’s a tough one – I’ll have to cheat and choose two… Audience with the Ghost Finder because it was such a joy to work with two talented actors on a fun, quick paced, and spooky script – fab opportunities to play with space and physicality.  And  Gormenghast: Titus Groan because it was such an achievement – our own adaptation of a classic novel, with an 18-strong cast.

 What’s the best show you’ve ever been to?

I think Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein is up there for me, and I’ve found Matilda pretty inspirational too – what they have in common is a beautiful synthesis of design and performance – and some really innovative staging techniques (I’m always looking to pick and steal little tricks from other productions).

What’s your favourite horror movie?

I’m a bit of a thrill junkie, and will watch any old tat – I’m particularly scared of little girl ghosts, but love anything with a spooky backstory.  My favourite of those I’ve seen recently is ‘Insidious’.

What scares you silly?


You’re going to a Halloween Party, what are you dressing up as?

A zombie!  I’ve got some excellent prosthetics which I haven’t had a chance to use yet.  Just not sure what type of zombie to go as…

Have you ever had a spooky experience?

I don’t really believe in ghosts, but I did scare myself silly recently – I was staying in a big manor house over the summer, everyone else went out, and I was all by myself in this vast place. I was just settling down to a DVD when I heard a regular thumping coming from upstairs. It sounded like a door being slammed over and over.  I tiptoed upstairs, with my finger hovering over the emergency call button on my phone.  As I approached the top of the stairs, the noise got louder, and louder.  SLAM, creak, SLAM.  As I got to the landing, I could see that the bathroom door was swinging open (creak), then slamming shut.  I thought it must just be a draught, and ventured into the bathroom.  Sure enough, the window was open a crack. I closed the window, walked out of the bathroom…creak, SLAM.  I turned around, the door had slammed itself shut again.  Well, it’s probably on a slope or something, so it naturally falls shut, and I could see the handle was fully engaged with the door frame, it was shut for good.  I turn again to walk down the stairs…creeeaaaak…I whip around, and the door is slowly inching open again.  I ran back downstairs.

Not a lot of people know that…

By day, I work as a financial administrator *spreadsheet high five*.

What’s your guilty pleasure?


What really grinds your gears?

Slow walkers and inefficiency.

You can see the fruits of Ellie’s directorial labours on 30th, 31st October and 1st November. Get your tickets now.