The Phantom of the Palace


The ‘haunting’ at the Palace Theatre makes for good entertainment value, but the S.P.R.’s investigation is becoming a nuisance: the basement studio has been identified as a particular ‘hot-spot’ with the consequence that the Players’ rehearsals are sporadically interrupted by outbreaks of hysteria. Last night, I dropped in to find Brenda Wishart cowering from the draught of cold air that preceded me into the room – she thought it indicated a spectral presence, a delusional panic that quickly communicated itself to several of her colleagues. Later a smashed cup caused further consternation and Nina Kelly, clearly exasperated, sent everyone home. As you know, this is her first stint directing and, judging from her demeanour, it might be her last.

Coincidentally, the Walter Greer mural was unveiled last Friday: ‘A Tribute to Drumfeld’s Brothers Greer and the Enduring Spirit of Panto.’  A cluster of indistinct blotches was already evident at the mural’s furthest corner, partially concealed by a strategically placed catering trolley; within forty eight hours, these had multiplied, creating a mottled effect that has subsequently darkened to the extent that several of the featured performers are no longer recognisable. Naturally, the S.P.R. team has seized on this as further evidence of poltergeist activity, ignoring more common-place explanations provided by the Palace caretaker (who blames the antiquated heating system) or Scott Simpson, the artist, who queried the designated wall’s suitability from the outset.

The haunted mural is now covered by a sheet and panicked actors scurry past en route to rehearsals: by Nina’s estimation, preparations are now a week behind schedule and she’s resigned to the possibility of cancellation – a first since 1986 when Walter Greer suffered a heart attack while berating the children’s chorus.


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