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Edinburgh Fringe 2016

I Used to Hear Footsteps

Jack A.G. Britton

Genre: Storytelling, Talk

Venue: Summerhall


Low Down

Ghost busting investigation becomes a family affair


Do buildings retain a memory in their silica? Could this be responsible for the ghostly images that people claim to see in haunted houses? Is it possible that a house could jinx the couples that live there and cause multiple marital break-ups? These themes are explored by drama lecturer Jack Britton.

Britton thinks he may have been brought up in such a home. This is the story of the house that Jack lived in.  It sounded and looked like a happy enough childhood – although his parents eventually split up… like all the previous married couples who have dwelt in this strange house in Beeston. Coincidence? Jack and his sister used to hear footsteps in the dead of night. So too did past, and present occupiers of the beastly abode. Jack does his research and traces the the house’s former footprints. Young-bearded-grown-up-serious-deadpan Jack (not unlike a red haired Jack Whitehall in appearance) wants to work out what it was all about.

Patterns emerge, they are chalked up on a blackboard, covered over and added to – layer after layer – Britton chalks up the years. It’s rather beautiful to watch. So too, is the chalk tracing of a sepia photo. It emerges that our past is never quite far below the surface.

While Jack’s trying to fathom out the phantoms, another level to this story develops. A soap-opera, of sorts. Jack needs to speak to his father to confirm his findings etc. – all strictly necessary for the professional job in hand; all in the name of diligent groundwork. Problem is, he’s estranged from his father. They’ve not talked for some time. He braves himself and makes the call.

So now we have a ghost story plus a tale of a lad and his dad. The latter emerges quite late on. Did Jack know, deep down, that his study would eventually lead to a rather, hurt, clipped and emotionally wrought call to his father? There’s no shouting – it’s all very British.

The paranormal element is rather upstaged by the parental one and Britton will need to lose his lecturer persona if he’s going to explore emotional vulnerability. Just down the echoing corridor at Summerhall, a similar lecture format is employed by Stephanie Ridings in The Road to Huntsville. Where Ridings takes us on an extraordinary journey, emotionally cathartic and, for her, life changing – Britton takes us by comparison, on a rather gentle stroll. A piece of work with some cracks in the foundations but the light does filter through in a ghostly manner – it just needed to be a bit more sure footed.