More Ghosts at Christmas : Edith in the Dark

Edith in the Dark

Celebrated children’s author Edith Nesbit escapes her annual Christmas Eve soiree and finds herself in her attic writing room with a young male guest and Biddy Thricefold, her loyal housekeeper.

The trio decide to observe the festive tradition of reading scary stories to help ward off wicked spirits, choosing the stories penned by Nesbit herself. Yet as they breathe life into these terrifying creations, all is not as it seems…

One of the people in the attic is hiding a deadly secret.

Millions have grown up with the fabled work of E Nesbit,which includes classic novels Five Children and It and The Railway Children, but she began her writing career as a mistress of horror. For the first time ever, these flesh-creeping yarns have been freely adapted for the stage.” [Source Harrogate Theatre website]

Way up on the second floor of the Harrogate Theatre (just a 20 minute train journey from home) is the intimate 50 seat Harrogate Studio Theatre. Yesterday afternoon I very much enjoyed a couple of hours in the company of the three characters playing out some of Nesbit’s ghost stories.

I had read a review in the local free paper earlier in December and was intrigued to know that Edith Nesbit, author of such children’s (and adults’) favourites as ‘The Railway Children’, ‘Five Children and It’ and ‘The Story of the Treasure Seekers’, wrote much more besides including ‘Tales of Terror’.

Edith in the dark

Here are Scott Ellis (as Mr Guasto) and Blue Merrick (as Edith) in Edith in the Dark [source]

Blue Merrick the actress who played Edith could have been EN herself. I had never heard of her but my friend recognised her as having played the registrar presiding over marriages in eleven separate episodes of Coronation Street on ITV.

From this new play I learned more about E. Nesbit’s life and the past that haunted her. She was an original member of the Fabian Society and named her son Fabian after it. Sadly he died at the age of 15 during a tonsil operation. She dedicated several of her books to this son including Five Children and It. She also seemed to feel very strongly that she did not want to be famous just through her children’s books. She was a keen socialist and defender of women’s rights.

I don’t know whether the play will transfer to other theatres but I was very glad to have spent the afternoon away from the shopping hordes again and in the company of Edith Nesbit.



6 comments on “More Ghosts at Christmas : Edith in the Dark

  1. Fran says:

    Julia Briggs has written a biography of EN : A Woman of Passion. Your theatre visit descriptions have prompted me to reserve a copy for some New Year reading.

    • She is someone about whom I knew very little – although loved The Railway Children. A biography must go on my list now. As soon as I got home I had to look up some of the facts revealed in the play. Off to check Leeds Library Catalogue …

  2. nilly says:

    Thank you so much for mentioning this – I am looking forward to seeing it this week! Her last home, with Thomas Tucker (the Woolwich Ferry engineer) was near Dymchurch in Kent, in a single story conversion which they called “The Long Boat”. Some years ago her granddaughter was letting it as holiday accommodation but I missed the opportunity and regret it now.

    • I know she lived at Well House in Eltham – where also Richmal Crompton lived at one time. The house now demolished. The rest I read on Saturday in Wikipedia when I got home. I wonder if you mentioned the house at Dymchurch one time in your blog? Hope you enjoy the show as much as I did.

  3. The show sounds wonderful. I knew she was an ardent socialist and supported women’s rights, and I seem to remember she lived with a married man, which must have been quite shocking at the time.And I think she did some journalism and magazine articles, but I’ve always assumed she was primarily a children’s writer – I’ve never heard of the Tales of Terror.

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