With Halloween approaching this weekend, we asked around if our beloved Cape Town theatres have any Caspers or phantoms residing in them… because you know how we love a good phantom story! We were not disappointed, as the talented theatre creative Alfred Rietmanm revealed to us that the Artscape Theatre does not just have its own friendly mischievous spook, but also a translucent dancing diva with occasional tantrums!
Here is Alfred’s true story recollections of his encounters with those who came to the theatre and decided to never leave…
“Martin is mostly a friendly ghost and hangs out in the roof of the Arena Theatre and sometimes in the loading bay of the Theatre Stage and Stage Left of the Theatre Stage. My 1st encounter with Martin was during a performance of the drama version of The Phantom Of The Opera in 1991. It was just after the big scene change into the grand staircase scene, with the entire cast on stage and all the stage crew on the stage right side of the stage. I was alone as the lights went up onto the scene when I felt a hand gently resting on my right shoulder. I tuned to look and… there was no one. I was alone. I pulled away, taking a few steps to me left and then again, that hand, this time heavier and almost holding onto me. I turned right around to look and again there was no one.
I quickly made my way to the stage managers desk and as I got there the stage manager turned to me and said: “Who was that standing behind you? The man with the big moustache?” “No one”, I replied. “I was alone. The whole crew is on the other side of the stage, as you know.” Just then there was an almighty crash as a large chair, which was screwed securely onto a wooden platform came tumbling down about 2 meters away from us. The stage manager, who had been working there for much longer than I then said: “Martin, go away!”
Working in the Arena Theatre, and often on my own painting bits of scenery or props I have gotten used to Martin walking around on the catwalks. One can hear the footsteps quite clearly and the shadows cast as he passes by in front of the working lights. But one night Martin had a bit of a ‘diva’ moment. We were about 20 minutes into Act 2 of “Unforced Errors”. Above the control and stage managers desk there were two Theatre Lights hanging on a spare bar. These lights were not part of the production and thus not plugged into any circuit. I first heard the familiar footsteps on the catwalk above and then: KABANG – someone hit the two hanging lights so hard that the entire audience looked up. Myself and the sound operator jumped up and as I focused my torch into the ceiling to see what was going on ‘Martin’ ran across to the other side of the stage and the two lights went on swinging wildly for almost a minute afterwards.
We still don’t know what made Martin so angry that night.”
“‘The Dancer’ hangs out on the 3rd floor of the Opera Wing and mostly makes a ‘scene’ in rehearsal room 301. For years the cleaning staff and some security staff has told me that they avoid that area at night and especially on Sunday afternoons. Now the thing about rehearsal room 301 is this: there are two sets of doors with tiny windows to unlock before one enters the room. Then there is a further 3 meters to go, in the dark, and then only the light switches are around the corner. The only light is a reddish shimmer from the ‘EXIT’ sign at the other end of the room. The floor is a sprung floor covered in dance mats but quite creaky. There are no windows at all and one wall has full length mirrors right across. All very spooky to start off with.
It was a Sunday afternoon and we were just moving onto the Theatre Stage with “Poison” the musical when We needed some props, still in the props room in rehearsal room 301. I grabbed the key from stage door and went over the Opera Wing an up to the 3rd floor. I was about to put the key into the outside doors lock when I heard ‘tap-tap-tap-tap’ from within. It sounded like a ballet dancer ‘an pointe’. Strange, I thought. The doors are looked and the lights are off so who would be ‘practicing’ in the dark room on a Sunday afternoon. I tried the door handle, which was locked when the ‘tap-tap-tap-tap’ suddenly stopped. The red glow from the ‘EXIT’ sign seemed to be brighter than usual.
Then, as I put the key into the lock the door handle went completely ballistic on me! About 90 seconds of violent shaking and kicking from inside the door followed. I dropped the key on the floor and ran down the corridor screaming. I told stage door security that I dropped and left the key there and asked if they could please fetch it. They said: “No, we don’t go up there on a Sunday afternoon when ‘SHE’ is there.”
Ten years later, while rehearsing “Cry The Beloved Country” in that same rehearsal room 301 with the full company on the floor, and in the middle of a scene, everything came to a grinding halt all of a sudden. The entire cast suddenly looked at me and then their eyes went up to the wall behind my back. In an instant I turned around to see what the cause of this sudden interruption could be. Suddenly and without any warning the entire emergency loudspeaker system came crashing down onto the floor. This was followed by the same ‘tap-tap-tap-tap’ across the floor and towards the red ‘EXIT’ sign. The double emergency doors going down into a stairwell opened and closed. We all sat in deathly silence. Everyone thinking: “What has just happened”.”
Do you have your own ghostly theatre story you would like to share with us? Tweet us @TheatreSceneCpt or post your story on our Facebook wall. We would love to hear from you!