Scary’s Voices – Spotlight & Interview
Back in my younger days I was a fully-fledged theatre kid. I loved nearly everything about it: acting, costumes, set design, sound production, and scripts. But there was one thing I didn’t like – being in the spotlight. Behind the scenes I could take on personas with my peers, ham it up to farcical levels, or explore the darkest emotions of human experience. However, trying to replicate that on stage, in front of a live audience, was more than I could handle, so I faded into the background and found my happy place behind the scenes.
Unlike me, some theatre folks thrive by being centre stage. Once you see them perform it’s clear the spotlight is exactly where they belong. And one such group of people call themselves Uncanny Collective.
After working together on several productions, Paul Linghorn, Steve Fitzgerald, Connor Allen, and Sara Lynam created Uncanny Collective in 2019 to celebrate horror and dark fiction, both on the stage and beyond. In November 2020 they launched their dark fiction podcast The Darkness Between Us, featuring dramatic readings of original short stories.
Ranging from ten minutes to half an hour, each episode presents one tale sure to delight and terrify listeners. What sets The Darkness Between Us apart from other fiction podcasts is the production quality. These stories aren’t merely narrated well but performed to a point you might forget they’re only stories. The voice actors dive deep into the characters, brilliantly expressing hard-hitting emotions. On top of that, the sound effects and musical accompaniments fill out the experience and provide a fitting creepy atmosphere.
I also really enjoy the variety of stories on the podcast. From the true story of a creepy mask in Episode 9 “Laughing Jack” to a troubling audition for a mysterious play in Episode 5 “The Red Child,” there’s a fantastic mix of subject matter and tone.
My favourite tale was Episode 10 “…from the slime” written by Steve Fitzgerald. Told through a disturbing exchange of voice messages, this creepy story involves murder and finding deities. I’d also highly recommend listening to Episode 6 “The Cold Isle” written by Paul Linghorn where a linguist makes a horrifying discovery in Greenland, and Episode 8 “Lamp-post; A Haunting” written by Rosalind Buck which feels like a dark poetic spoken word piece.
Season One of The Darkness Between Us concluded this month with Episode 12, and I cannot wait for more. The podcast is available on most streaming platforms or you can listen directly on their website (link below).
If you want even more from this talented troupe, Uncanny Collective has also been busy producing some online live events. On March 21 to celebrate the Spring Equinox, they performed several new stories, as well as songs, ballads, and wonderful retellings of folktales. I was able to listen to the full event called “Emerging from the Earth” and it was wonderful!
Spanning just under 2.5 hours, the event felt like attending a live theatre production, which I have certainly been missing these days. Paul Linghorn presented two of his own stories, as did Rosalind Buck, all revolving around themes of rebirth and transformation. Between these tales, attendees were treated to the beautiful voice of Sara Lynam who sang folk songs, including the Māori Waiata “The Children of the Mist.”
My favourite segment of “Emerging from the Earth” was Jason Buck’s retelling of Grimms’ (collected) story “The Singing Bone.” Dark and humorous, as all good fairy tales should be, this story of a kingdom ravaged by a two-headed giant and the old knight and young squire tasked with defeating the monster, was like an adult version of pantomimes I enjoyed as a kid. There was even an interactive portion where audience members could help shape the story’s conclusion.
If this sounds like something you would enjoy, you’re in luck as the next Uncanny Collective live event called “Spring Terrors” takes place Saturday, April 3, 2021 at 6 pm (GMT) via Zoom. Flexible ticket prices of £5/£10/£20 may be purchased from Eventbrite Spring Terrors – Tickets
J.A. Sullivan Talks To Uncanny Collective
To tell you more about this wonderful group of people and their upcoming live event, here’s my interview with Uncanny Collective:
J. A. Sullivan: Can you tell us a little bit about the four creators behind Uncanny Collective?
Connor Allen: I’m an actor, singer, voice-over and stage combatant from Bracknell. I moved to London in 2016 shortly after performing in The Camden Fringe. I have a background in audio production, mainly podcast editing/production but also have experience mixing live sound for musical theatre. I consider myself a nerd and wear the badge with pride as I’m currently running two D&D horror campaigns.
Sara Lynam: I’m an actor, singer, and voice over originally from New Zealand. Did most of the vocal directing on our podcast and work alongside Connor with the production side of that. I’ve also started dabbling in horror writing as of late (still very early stages, mind you) and I’m the queen of our social media!
Steve Fitzgerald: I’m a writer, director and performer based in London. I’ve been creating primarily theatre work for the past 11 years with my husband Paul Linghorn. We have focused on creating work in singular spaces, such as productions of Alice In Wonderland/The Wizard Of Oz in Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington and Richard III in the crypt of St. Andrew Church in Holborn.
Paul Linghorn: I’m a writer and director, born and bred in the east end of London. I used to produce live theatre that toured around Europe and have directed several productions in unconventional spaces since settling at home. As of late I have primarily been writing and developing stories for our podcast The Darkness Between Us and our recent online shows.
JAS: Have you all always been interested in the horror genre or did that develop as you worked together?
Steve: I’ve been obsessed with horror since a very young age. My parents were extremely liberal with what I was allowed to watch and read, so I got to see a lot of the classics very early on. I remember watching Fright Night when I was around four years old, and I was hooked. I actually put together a show a few years ago called Horror: A Love Story, which focused on my undying love for the genre.
Paul: Horror has always been part of my life, whether it was writing mad nonsensical stories about ghosts when I was 7, playing Resident Evil when I was 10 or reading Frankenstein when I was 12, it was there. But it was meeting Steve which really sparked a love for all things horror in me. We even got married on Halloween to mark its significance! The impact of that has certainly informed the majority of our work.
Sara: Compared to the other members, I’m a late bloomer to the horror genre. My parents weren’t really fans, so I didn’t get much exposure to the genre aside from a really distinct and classic childhood memory of peering through the stairway bannisters and watching ‘Gremlins’ when I’d been told I was too young and should’ve been in bed. Nightmares ensued. Once I went to university, I started watching horror films and TV shows and also went to this amazing scare attraction in Auckland called Spookers with an actual cornfield maze to run through whilst being chased by a dude with a chainsaw – the adrenaline from being scared in a ‘controlled’ environment is second to none!! Probably also why I like acting.
Connor: In terms of performing, I can honestly say no. Many moons ago before I went to university, I was planning on trying to make it in the musical theatre genre, which was sadly stopped short by an injury. My early horror exposure was primarily video games like Dead Space and Resident Evil until meeting Paul and Steve. Their love for the genre was and still is infectious and in turn I found the genre more interesting.
JAS: Since founding Uncanny Collective in 2019, what’s been your most memorable project?
Steve: If I had to pick, I’d probably say The Darkness Between Us. I’m so, so proud of the podcast. I love theatre and performing live, but the podcast was something that we had been discussing for a while and it has just been amazing to see it all come together. I think some of my best writing is included in there too. We’ve also been lucky to have some amazing guest writers and performers.
Sara: I have really loved making our podcast however, I miss live performance. I’d have to say our first production in the Asylum Chapel was pretty special as the venue itself was just incredible. It had its own tangible atmosphere and I got to sing in the show and experience its wonderful acoustics too. Very much looking forward to being back there again, performing live for everyone.
Connor: It’s hard to pinpoint a project and not echo the answers of my colleagues. But performing in the Asylum Chapel was amazing, the building is tucked away in a residential area in Peckham and just has a wonderful gothic feel to it. I’m really excited to be returning there in October this year!
Paul: It’s very hard to pick, I adore our live theatre work, I particularly enjoyed our modernized take on Anthony Nielson’s Penetrator at The Lion and Unicorn. But The Darkness Between Us podcast has a special place in my chilly little heart as a tangible thing that will last forever. I love it!
JAS: What inspired you to begin your weekly podcast The Darkness Between Us?
Sara: The pandemic mostly! Not being able to be in the same room, let alone do anything live really got to us all and we wanted to keep being creative. We had actually been planning it for a while pre-COVID, but lockdown really kicked it into gear. Also, because I’m a voice-over, it meant Connor and I had literally living room access to a vocal booth and all the kit we needed to professionally record the pieces. We have an expertly spooky writing team in Paul and Steve, and I have many talented and equally well kitted out friends who feature in the latter half of season one.
JAS: If you could add any well-known writer or performer (living or dead) to your troupe, who would it be and why?
Steve: Vincent Price. Just imagine getting to work with such an icon. He had everything, the best voice, the best look and seemed to be an all-round wonderful human being. Just imagine all the horrific, ghastly roles we could have had him perform with us.
Paul: Clive Barker for me. The mind that created Hellraiser and The Books of Blood as well as so much more. Living legend.
JAS: Besides the podcast, you’ve also created a few live events which people can attend online. What prompted offering live entertainment?
Sara: Again, this was lockdown inspired and also inadvertently seeing that many others were doing it. I think I speak for everyone in saying that we miss the live element of performing, so this was the next best thing we could do, and it’s been so wonderful to be able to do these things. We also met Roz (Rosalind) and Jason Buck through seeing an event of theirs come up in an ad on Facebook, attended that, began talking about a collaboration and that’s where ‘Emerging from the Earth’ came from! Also, one of Roz’s pieces is featured in season one of The Darkness Between Us.
JAS: What can attendees expect in the upcoming Spring Terrors event?
Steve: Vampires! Murder! Occult folk rituals! We’ll be premiering some brand-new writing from the Uncanny Collective and we also have some brilliant special guests joining us to keep you entertained and scared all evening.
“Spring Terrors” takes place Saturday, April 3, 2021 at 6 pm (GMT) via Zoom. Flexible ticket prices of £5/£10/£20 may be purchased from Eventbrite Spring Terrors – Tickets
JAS: Are you planning any other live events this year?
Connor: We have two dates in the Asylum Chapel of The Darkness Between Us stage show. Sadly, due to the pandemic we had to postpone it last October which we have rearranged as well as securing a second date which means we are able to share more titillating terrors!
JAS: I’d sincerely like to thank Uncanny Collective for taking the time to speak with me. I hope you enjoyed this interview, and if you would like to know more about this creative ensemble, feel free to connect with them on the following social medial platforms:
J. A. Sullivan is a horror writer and paranormal enthusiast, based in Brantford, ON, Canada. Attracted to everything non-horror folks consider strange, she’s spent years as a paranormal investigator, has an insatiable appetite for serial killer information, and would live inside a library if she could.
As curator of “Scary’s Voices” on Kendall Reviews, an article series reviewing horror podcasts, Sullivan loves listening to all things spooky. If you have a horror podcast recommendation, let her know.
On top of contributing short stories to Kendall Reviews, her fiction has appeared in Don’t Open the Door (2019), It Came From The Darkness (2020), and she acted as an assistant editor for Black Dogs, Black Tales (2020). Other spooky tales and updates on her writing journey can be found on her blog.
You can follow J. A. on Twitter @ScaryJASullivan
Check out her blog https://writingscaredblog.wordpress.com
Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/j.a_sullivan
Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/j.a_sullivan