Behind the Coat - UQ Theatre Festival

21 May 2020

Nathan Schulz pens this article about the process he went through when creating the audio visual experience that is The Coat.

Ghosts have always haunted literature, and I do love a good ghost story! After all Christopher Lee once said

“When we see a film, we are inevitably looking at one interpretation presented to us by the director and the cast. However, when we read or hear a story, there is no limit whatever to our own imagination, which can roam at will.  Our own conception can be far more vivid and disturbing than when we are looking at something on celluloid.”

Ghost stories will always have the ability to draw the reader or listener inexorably into their grasp as there is no limit to our own imagination.

The Coat was performed in my first show, as part of an anthology of ghost stories, for the Anywhere festival in 2015, called “Lights out Vol. 1”.It was performed for an intimate audience of 10 in a candlelight back room of an oddities shop called Ecclectica – Esoteric books and curiosities, West End.  

Infact this show paved the way for two of my future shows, one being The Radioplay Hour, for instead of sitting in front of a radio, radio actors, musicians and sound effect artists, the audience were instead sitting, listening and interacting with a Victorian era family who like to tell ghost stories around the fireplace on Christmas Eve.

Given the challenges of COVID19 right restricting live performances and getting people together I could not revisit this concept, so I decided to trial an idea that I have had for this story for some time continuing the audio-visual storytelling aspect and submitting it to Anywhere Festival and UQ Online Theatre Festival

Once accepted I made bringing this atmospheric tale, about a curious item of clothing encountered in an old chateau, to life by using narration, live sound effects, lantern light and a little imagination as my next challenge and a trail to something bigger I have in store for this concept.

Since I last Wednesday I set to work in transforming our little garage / studio / theatre space into an attic or storage room (haven’t decided what it is yet so I’ll leave to viewer discretion) light only by two kerosene lanterns. Here you will hear the story via gramophone, of our narrator reminiscing about her cycling holiday in France and stopping at a deserted chateau to mend a puncture in her tyre and encountering the coat.

Originally performed by Tahlia Jade Holt in 2015, I had changed the character from a male narrator to a female adventuress, whose ghost story about a Coat, won the nights storytelling challenge. I  naturally asked if she would like to return to the old chateau and narrate this performance and we recorded her voice via a phone, as she lives in Brisbane.

Listening to her recount the story was a step back in time. I had worked with Tahlia previously on a show called Accomplice, and she also the second ghost in my immersive ghost story The Curiosity Experiment, in its first few performances. We have kept in contact as she has been gracing both the stage and screen as a professional actress. She has recently wrapped principal photography on her 7th feature film and is now focusing her attention on screenwriting while she works diligently on relocating to USA to further pursue her career.   

From Sunday to Tuesday night, with help from my ever loving and supportive fiancé, we have filmed what I hope will be the foundations to something bigger to come. I am quite sure we annoyed the neighbours with the sound of a thunder created by sheet metal, but we made sure the rehearsal and filming were completed by 7pm latest.

Since time immemorial, man has been fascinated by the unusual, the unseen, the inexplicable and the bizarre.

The Coat will be available to watch on Thursday 21st May from 2:00pm, keep an eye out on my social media or website for more details to come as I am waiting to be contacted by the co-ordinators for specifics. The viewing will be by contribution and can done by clicking on this link.

To me a ghost story is better experienced live, but I do hope we give a few Goosebumps with the online performance.

Be sure that when the time comes I have locations both on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast in mind to perform this show again, once I have digested some notes and feedback and built on the concept a little more as I have a few other ghost stories in mind to do.