Interview: Robert Lloyd Parry | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The Lit & Phil’s successful Summer Hauntings festival will be brought to a close of Friday 5th July, by bringing to life six fantastical and otherworldly stories written over a hundred years ago. Beasts and Superbeasts is a compilation of strange tales by Saki (real name Hector Hugh Monro) and present a strange and baffling world where the interplay between animals or ‘beasts’ and men is much entangled.

Art historian and performance storyteller Robert Lloyd Parry, will enrapture his audience by reading the six stories at the secret library and conjuring the supernatural and macabre and exploring the bleaker side of human nature. Before he did that we caught up with him to find out more.

When did you first come across Beasts and Superbeasts? What was it you liked about it?
Long ago – as a schoolboy – I used to write macabre stories, inspired by the far superior Tales of the Unexpected of Roald Dahl.  One of these – about an anthropomorphic crow who ended up killing his racist landlady – won the admiration of my English teacher at the time, who suggested on the back of it that I check out the work of Saki. I was very quickly hooked and have been ever since.

Can you tell us more about the author Saki (real name Hector Hugh Monro)?
Saki was a prolific journalist at the turn of the 20th century, who is remembered today (if he is remembered at all) for his singular short stories. They’re hard to categorise. They aren’t ghost stories, though they often have supernatural elements in them. They are usually very funny, sharply satirical, and often tell of genuinely shocking events. Sardonic is a word that is regularly used of them. Saki himself, in his mid forties and under no obligation, joined the army in WW1 and was killed by a sniper’s bullet in 1916. His last words were reputedly “Put that bloody cigarette out!” – which almost sounds too good to be true, given the mordant wit of his fiction.

You’re a performance storyteller. What does that entail and how did you get into it?
For me, it involves reading and editing a lot, travelling to theatres, libraries, country houses and pubs and performing – sometimes reading – classic English short stories to audiences of varying sizes. All of which activities I usually enjoy very much.

Which other ghost stories do you enjoy performing?
It’s not just ghost stories – though the ghost stories of M R James do provide my bread and butter. But I also revere Arthur Conan Doyle and H G Wells and Arthur Machen. Men of vision and imagination.

The Lit & Phil is home to 16 spectres, are you worried that they might pay you a visit on 5th July?
Of the sixteen spectres at the Lit and Phil, I only believe in seven of them. And of the seven, I fear but three. Those three will meet the full effect of my Electric Pentacle if they try any funny business on July 5th. They have been warned.

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