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Harold & Arthur's Horror Show: The stuff of nightmares

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Harold and Arthur are two men who share many things, including a flat in Bingley and a love of true crime. They're bringing their acclaimed show to Theatre Deli in October, but what's real and what's fiction? We caught up with them to try to get some answers.

Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves and how you got into theatre-making?

H: We share a passion for story-telling, in particular horror and true crime. We used to meet our friends in the woods every week, sit around a campfire and share whatever weird and disturbing tales we'd come across. Then university ended and people went their separate ways. Not us though.

A: We kept going to the woods by ourselves, week after week, to tell each other about the traumatic hijinks we'd got ourselves into.

H: Problem was, we'd experienced the stories that keep us up at night... together. So it just turned into a weekly camping trip.

A: Anyway, one night, while we were eating dinner around the fire, in silence, we heard the screech of a tawny owl and what sounded like branches snapping. We looked up. A tall, gaunt figure was looking back.

H: I mean, it was just some guy.

A: Massive beard though.

H: He said he'd been lost for several days and that he'd been using our campsite. We agreed to disagree as to whose spot it was and we cracked open some beers.

A: He told us his tale and we told him ours. Said it was some of the scariest stuff he'd ever heard - and he'd heard some scary stories - and then he asked us if we'd ever considered telling other people.

H: But how do you do that in this day and age? Everyone's on the phone.

A: 'Easy.' He said, 'You make... theatre.'

H: I mean, I had my reservations...

A: 'Do exactly what you do already,' he said, with his - god, they were long - arms in the air. 'But with smoke and lights and video projection and music, and they will come!' So we were like, 'Alright.' And we did just that.

H: And invited a very interesting special guest to talk with us.

A: And then, no word of lie, he just ran off. Sprinted back into the woods.

H: Never saw him again after that. Did we even get his name?

A: Jim. Absolute nutcase.

H: Ah right.

You've recently returned from doing a series of sellout shows at the Fringe. How was that?

A: Flattering. And tiring. Really tiring actually. But it's exhilarating all the same. It's a bit of a cliché, but we do it because this is all we know how to do. I mean, it's great having a full house, but it's just as fun spending an hour performing directly at a single audience member, yelling about strange disappearances and mysterious river deaths.

H: Which is what the show's about. Either way, it's intense. We've met some incredible people after those shows as well. Audience members, other companies, you know. There's nothing like having people come up and ask for more, or people wanting to go for a drink with you after you've spent the last hour telling them horror stories. It makes you feel alive.

A: Especially when you feel dead inside the rest of the time.

What were the main sources of inspiration for Harold and Arthur's Horror Show?

H: Primarily it was the opportunity to talk about some really scary shit in public. We've drawn very heavily on the work of our special guest. We can't reveal his identity here, but he's a fantastically well respected true crime author. Of course, when you're hypothesising about murderers, monsters and world-eating evils from beyond the realms of sanity, you can't get away from HP Lovecraft. We're big fans of his, and of Poe, Peter Straub and Stephen King. And of cult horror cinema. And of other fiction, stuff like Danielewski, Hodgeson, P.K Dick, Asimov, Wells, Crowley, Lynch and Frost.

A: ... Sabrina the Teenage Wit-

H: -All that strange stuff. Outside of fiction, Nick Redfern has also been a big inspiration, and of course, John Keel. But our focus is on the parts of all this that might be true, the ideas behind the monsters and, maybe, those monsters that turn out to be real.

A: We've... [nervous laughter] ...We've had some strange experiences of our own. And they've also made it into the writing. But we don't want to spoil anything. If you want to know why we're so committed to this stuff you'll have to come and see the show.

Do you find that horror theatre allows you to take more risks, in terms of content and creativity? If so, how?

A: Yes, absolutely. Horror is a good vehicle for ideas. It makes people wake up. It allows you to explore some pretty weird topics and to go to dark places that you don't see so often in other genres. Places you might not particularly want to visit. But I think you have to take those risks for yourself. So if you're trying to tell people something important - like the fact that hundreds of people really do go missing under sinister and completely inexplicable circumstances every week - well, dressing it up as horror is a good way to make people pay attention.

H: That really sums up what the show is for us. It should make you gasp. It should make you panic. It should unsettle you. And it does. People go home scared. We get their emails. It's really quite upsetting.

A: In a good way.

Finally, can you describe the show in three words.

H: It's real.

A: Honest.

Catch Harold & Arthur's Horror Show on Friday 11 October at Theatre Deli. Doors 7pm, show 7:30pm (Approx 1hr)

Tickets can be bought on the door for £10 or £8 in advance on Eventbrite.

If Now Then readers "have seen the owl" on the door, they will receive a special 'Doppleganger Deal' which grants two seats for £14.

by Felicity Jackson (she/her)

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