Ghost theatre

When the last person has scrabbled under their seat for their programme, coat and anything else, and left the theatre, a single light is left on.

This is the Ghost Light. It’s to keep all the ghosts happy when they move around the theatre at night. If you forget to leave it on, then you get very unhappy ghosts and no theatre wants that. We are a superstitious lot in the theatre.

Ghost theatre

A Victorian production of Macbeth

Of course you all know about Macbeth. We hate even saying the word and all sorts of rigmarole goes on if anyone says it. Turning around 15 times, spitting, and swearing loudly preferably outside the room where you said it and many variations of this go on around the World. It all started on the very first night when the young lad playing Lady Macbeth died and Shakespeare himself went on. From that moment on, injuries in sword fights, death in accidents, and everything besides have been attributed to this curse.

What curse ?

Well apparently the witches curse, 'Hubble bubble' is a real spell. Shakespeare knew this and it added realism. King James banned the play as he thought it was so bloodthirsty and terrible.
Even in the 21st century this omen hangs around anything to do with it. On the latest film of Macbeth, the whole cast and crew were forbidden from saying the word when they weren’t shooting.

Enough about the Scottish Play, or Harry Lauder and on to other oddities. Green is very unlucky as a colour on stage. Yet there is a green room, some actors say 'see you on the green' as in Cockney rhyming slang, greengage = stage, or because the stage floor used to be painted green,

Ghost Theatre

Molière who died of Arsenic poisoning from his costume

But green costumes, never. This is all to do with the death of Molière, the French writer and actor.

In the performance he began to feel ill. This had been goi g on some time. He made it through the performance sand home before he died. His death was attributed to Arsenic poisoning from the green on his costume. Lovely. So no more green costumes ever.

If you let a man in first to the auditorium on a first night the show will be a success, if you let a woman in first it will be a flop. I wonder how that one started. Real flowers on stage are a definite no-no. For very practical reasons though, as people could slip and fall on petals or leaves. Never give flowers to a performer before a show, it is bad luck, but after is very welcome.

Ghost theare

A ghost light

Going back to Shakespeare’s theatre, when the stagehands and some of the cast were sailors, then whistling was the main method of communicating backstage, for scenery to move, or cloths to fly in. Whistling became unlucky as it could get someone hurt.

Now all this 'break a leg' business. We say it instead of good luck. But why ?

Is it because audiences in Ancient Greece showed their approval by stamping their feet, so the louder the better the performance ? Or is it because an actor in 18th century London insisted on going on to perform in front of King George III, even though he had broken his leg and the King was delighted and insisted he performed each time. Or how about this version, that if you placed your foot in front of one of the scenery 'legs' you had appeared on stage, and therefore were entitled to be paid.

In France they say 'Merd'. We'll leave that there.

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