I’ve been lucky enough to catch Jonathan Goodwin’s one-person shows Murder by Gaslight and Ghost Stories for Christmas. Soon, I’m off to see his show The Singular Exploits of Sherlock Holmes. In Murder by Gaslight, he brought William Palmer (one of Alfred Swaine Taylor’s least favourite murderers) to terrifying, arrogant life, then in the second act transformed into the meak Dr Crippen. It was an incredible performance. So I’m really pleased to bring you an interview with Jonathan to find out more about his work.
Welcome to my blog, Jonathan!
Jonathan Goodwin as Sherlock Holmes
Don’t Go Into The Cellar! puts on shows at all sorts of interesting venues across the country – from The Coffin Works in Birmingham to Kentwell Hall in Suffolk and all sorts of places in between. In fact, Kentwell Hall was where some of Vincent Price’s Witchfinder General was filmed. So which of the venues you’ve performed at has been your favourite?
Well, I have played in so many spaces down the years. Theatre and studio spaces, of course, as well as stately homes, and even caverns and a steam-ship. One of my favourites so far has to be Highgate Cemetery, where the company staged The Singular Exploits of Sherlock Holmes. I’d wanted to visit the Cemetery since childhood, when I first read about the Highgate Vampire. Another has been the Reform Club in Pall Mall, where we performed Holmes.
National Trust’s Wightwick Manor in Wolverhampton is another favourite. The audiences there are always receptive to our shows, and the staff and volunteers are lovely.
I was on holiday in Kefalonia as a child when I saw my first dead body: the rather wrinkly 16th century St. Gerasimus. He wasn’t on view for tourists, only for the eyes of the Greeks, but my grandad had spent so long faffing about with his Kodak that we were the last two tourists left in the church when his coffin was opened. He almost looked as if he was asleep, but it was hard to see if he was breathing under his thick velvet brocade gown. A monk chanted as a queue of penitents shuffled towards him, each kissing a velvet cushion placed over the papery saint’s feet. A little boy – about the same age as me – was lifted up so he could kiss the cushion. Having been raised Congregational, going each Sunday to a chapel which didn’t even have the mere suggestion of coloured glass in its windows – no statues, no gilding, and certainly no incorrupt saints – the spectacle fascinated me. Perhaps because my father was an undertaker (our family Volvo estate doubled as transport for “customers”), it had extra resonance, as if seeing St. Gerasimus helped me to understand what my dad did, dressed all in black with his very large umbrella.
Since that day, the concept of incorruptibles has fascinated me, so when I found out that Verity Holloway had written a novella about them, I knew I had to read it. Set in a not-too-distance future, as the world’s rising waters consume the land, St. Silvan is looked to as a symbol of hope by the residents of the drowning world. The pretty-boy saint travels by night, visiting other incorruptibles, including secular figures such as Lenin and an Anatomical Venus. A saintly Avon Lady, he recommends lipstick and powders to touch up the ancient figures. But as St. Silvan starts to remember who he was in life, the cracks start to show.
I spoke to Verity about her novella, her writing process and about her book The Mighty Healer, which is out later this year.