My Inspiration: Michael Luke | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Halloween approaches and some of us may be thinking of reaching out to the other side to contact loved ones or an 18th Century coachman whose name begins with the letter J. If that’s you, then you might consider booking Sunderland playwright Lee Stewart’s character creation, Neville Vaughn for all your spirit communications needs. 

There’s Something Coming Through is a new theatre production that offers an affectionate look at what happens to famous clairvoyants when the entity they most need to reach is the ghost of their own career. It follows a ‘big in the nineties’ psychic Neville (and his long-suffering assistant David) as he tries to get past his own negative energy and get his career back on track. The play is set pre, during and post the Neville Vaughan stage extravaganza and parts of the play take the form of an actual, semi-serious clairvoyancy evening and makes the audience is part of the show.

Actor Michael Luke talks to us about the inspiration behind the show that takes place at Northern Stage this Hallowe’en (October 31) and All Saints Day (November 1), with a special warm-up show at Washington Arts Centre on October 26th.

The possibility of meeting up with deceased loved ones, no matter how far fetched an idea, has always been an intriguing one to contemplate. Spiritualists, psychics, mediums, clairvoyants, however they’ve been named, have been around since time began and many people have looked to them for comfort and reassurance, with varying degrees of success. Is there life after death? Can people really speak to the dead? Are ghosts real? These are all questions that have plagued ordinary people for centuries and there have been thousands of charlatans who have exploited those in need of the answers to those questions, often for significant financial reward. Personally, I have paid money in the past to see psychic mediums perform or to give one-to-one readings. Not for some agonising yearning to hear from a dead grandmother or anything, but more because of a deep-seated need to be convinced that they’re genuine. 

The idea for There’s Someone Coming Through came about through years of watching these celebrity psychics dominate the small screen for a significant period around twenty years ago, and similarly how American televangelists would garner an almost God-like following and bask in the huge wealth and fortune that it brought. But, to coin the phrase ‘what goes up, must come down’ I wanted to write about a psychic whose star had long since started to fizzle out, yet in his mind he was still on top and still expected the trappings of the success of yesteryear, only to be frustrated by the dwindling audiences and the declining quality of venues that act as a reminder of today’s reality. 

Obviously, Derek Accorah was an inspiration for the styling of the play’s main protagonist, Neville Vaughan, but a televangelist called Peter Popoff, who was huge in America in the 1980s, also bore influence. I thought it would be a good idea for an audience to bear witness to a pivotal moment in his career and watch him unravel in front of their very eyes and the story of Peter Popoff, who was exposed as a fraud on stage for using an earpiece to receive messages from his wife regarding names and ailments of audience members, also provided some inspiration for the plays plot. 

‘There’s Someone Coming Through’ is set before, during and after one of Neville Vaughan’s live shows, so the format is very different from that of a standard stage production, as mid-way into the play Neville and his assistant David break the fourth wall as the play morphs into his psychic medium stage show and the audience become cast members as they begin to play the part of the audience at Neville’s spiritualist extravaganza, so they get to witness the flamboyant diva backstage and the charismatic showman front of stage. 

‘There’s Someone Coming Through’ plays at Northern Stage in Newcastle on Halloween and 1st November and Arts Centre, Washington on 26th October. To quote Neville’s signature signing off catchphrase “may their love surround you always”.

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