Review: Uncanny - I Know What I Saw (Tour)
When it comes to ghost stories, I’m a complete novice.
It’s not that I’m easily spooked (honest) nor that I'm a cynic, but I generally prefer my entertainment light and my fright seasonal. In that regard Danny Robins’ Uncanny: I Know What I Saw has hit the road at the right time; when I’ve had my pumpkin spice latte/candle/baked good and could just go for a ghost story.
Like the podcast, and the new BBC TV series, Uncanny sees Robins and his team of experts delve into real-life stories and examine the probability of it being paranormal. For the show two never-heard-before cases are explored with Robins taking on the role of narrator.
An almost self-professed garden shed conspiracist, Robins has bought that safe space as his set and opened it up to invite in the audience – made up largely of hardcore ghostie-fans (complete with apt. choruses of ‘ooh’s and ‘ahh’s) alongside some curious chancers and some unwilling +1s.
He’s a generous host warmly lit under the glow of the spotlights, and is funny and inviting. Most crucially Robins is trustworthy; he shares his deepest fears and gets genuinely emotional when the audience shares theirs.
The storytelling itself is clear and thorough, as is the thought-provoking conversation had between the heads of Team Sceptic (Ciarán O’Keffe) and Team Believer (Evelyn Hollow). Of course, there’s a child involved, and of course there’s a train that passes by the house, but still, they’re tales to sink your teeth into.
When stripped back, the show is as its best. I almost started to understand why some people relax with a paranormal pod.
However, the set is almost constantly being fiddled and played with. Staircases swivel and desks become beds in over-complex maneuvering that sometimes threatens the foundations of the shed wall.
Sound surrounds the audience as the stories are interjected with jarring screams and cries as we’re plunged into darkness - the effect quickly starts to feel very Alton Towers scare-fest. Meanwhile projections climb the sides of the walls blending with an over-worked smoke machine and the barely-there silhouettes of bare trees. The complex undertaking was all a bit distracting and not at all needed when the bare bones of the show were so strong.
There were some very real, human moments though. Questions are asked by the eager audience, there’s a brief segment on local hauntings and the Uncanny community are invited to share their ghost stories. Guided by the experts (whose knowledge and eloquence are something quite special), the endearing Robins has created a respectful and respected space where people confess that their toddler has a terror-some imaginary friend and that they're itching to know more about the Todmorden UFO.
It left me wanting desperately to believe, but also relieved I rely more on logic.