Stories that inspired M.R. James

Twelve tales of terror recommended by the master of the genre!

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Episode 48 – Auditor and Impresario

October 17, 2015 | Episodes | Comments (6)

A young M.R. James playing the part of Peithetairos in Aristophanes' The Birds, Cambridge 1883This episode Mike and Will dust off their acting chops and take to the stage as they cover Auditor and Impresario, M.R. James’s little-know comic play! Expect diabolism, drama, demons and dreadful sub-GCSE-level acting!

The image to the right is none other than M.R. James himself, playing they the part of Peithetairos in an 1883 student production of Aristophanes’ The Birds at Cambridge. The play was performed in the original Greek, naturally!

Show notes:

  • To our knowledge this play is currently only available in Ash Tree Press’s A Pleasing Terror. Currently only available in eBook form, but an essential purchase for any James fan in our opinion.
  • This play is a parody of a student production of Dr Faustus by Christopher Marlow. You can read the whole thing on Project Gutenburg.
  • This play was not the only thing inspired by the 1906 student production of Dr Faustus. It inspired the formation of the Marlowe Dramatic Society, which is still going today.
  • In this episode we ruminate on the connections between this play and Rupert Brooke, who starred in the production of Dr Faustus which preceded the writing of this play.
  • One figure who looms large over this play is M.R. James’s very good friend J.W. Clarke. Clarke (or ‘J’ to his friends) was a prominent figure at Cambridge and a great supporter of the Amateur Dramatic Club.
  • Rosemary Pardoe ponders the meaning of the seemingly-unrelated latin sentences which Mephistopheles spouts in this article on the Ghost and Scholars website.
  • The Seven Hills and other Cambridge oddities are explained in this entertaining article.
  • Gyp, and a whole range of other mysterious terms are explained in this article on the slang and jargon of Cambridge University. For a chuckle we recommend checking out the references to  ‘Great Court Run’, ‘Grad-bashing’, ‘Hill’, ‘Open scholarship’, ‘Punting’, ‘Sent down’, ‘Sex club’ and ‘Suicide sunday’.
  • More details on James’s involvement with drama at Cambridge can be found in James’s Eton and Kings.

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  1. Marcia says:

    Hi guys, great to have you back after the break! A gyp is the same as a skip, a school servant. The old man in The Mezzotint for instance. (I think the term is also used in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s school-set story Lot No. 249.)
    Great podcast as always and I have to say your am-dram efforts are far better than many readers on Librivox so well done.

  2. Kim says:

    Glad you’re back! This was really enjoyable; I had no idea this even existed.(I guess I’m not a _true_ James fan, since passed on ‘A Pleasing Terror’ on the assumption there was nothing new in it… hrmph.) And while I _had_ read somewhere about him being in the original-language Aristophanes performance at Cambridge, the photo is an unexpected treat. Thanks!

  3. Michael says:

    Another great episode guys. And I thought the acting was fantastic.

  4. Diane says:

    What next, Guys? I galloped through the Podcasts when I first discovered them, and am now missing my regular fix so much!
    Any plans for other authors linked to the genre?
    Maybe some episodes on the changing nature of the Ghost Story over time.
    Or how about opening up the discussion as to what you could cover next to your podcastees?
    (Is that a new word, or just plain wrong?

  5. Diane says:

    …And thank you for all your hard work. It is very much appreciated. I love the combination of intellectual debate and witty banter. More needed please!

  6. You guys are great! I’ve loved this podcast from episode 1 and I always enjoy each new episode and your occasional guests. You’ve really taught me to appreciate MR James (for instance, I now realize his vast influence on Ramsey Campbell….). I’ll be eagerly looking forward to your Vignette curtain call (?) or whatever else you end up doing in between family, work and all the other necessary considerations! 😉

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