Launched in 2010, the appropriately named, Birmingham based theatre company Don’t Go Into the Cellar! is renowned for offering a slightly modern twist on macabre Victorian-Edwardian literature.
Centring around such historical characters as Oscar Wilde, Sherlock Holmes, Dracula and M.R James, the company tours the UK performing at festivals, intimate theatres, venues and National Trust properties. An evening, perfect for those seeking the spectacular blood and thunder-esque theatrical entertainments of days gone by….
I spoke to Don’t Go Into the Cellar!’s Artistic Director, writer & performer Jonathan Goodwin about the company’s unique style of theatre.
What is your background, and what inspired you to launch the Don’t Go Into the Cellar! Theatre Company?
I was a jobbing actor attending auditions for productions I didn’t really want to be in.What I hoped for was to find a company that produced Victorian/Edwardian style theatre, there weren’t any such companies.So, I decided to make it happen myself with the help of my then girlfriend.
What makes your brand of theatre performance unique?
We are unique in that we are the only theatre company in the UK that specialises in this type of production, all the year round. Our productions are all original pieces, written by myself and directed by my colleague, Gary Archer. I think the levels of detail and devotion to what we do make our stage shows unique, in terms of quality and content.
When did your interest in all things Victorian, Gothic and Macabre start?
In childhood! I don’t recall a time when I wasn’t fascinated by the fin de siecle.The first book I read at school was a Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes story, and I loved to watch the Universal and Hammer horrors on TV and VHS as a child.
Which writers and actors have inspired you?
Peter Cushing, Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, with a tip of the topper to Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi.As for writers, Robert Louis Stevenson, M.R. James, Conan Doyle and H G Wells.
Which character(s) do you like performing the most?
Sherlock Holmes is tremendous fun to play; he is such a dark and complex character, yet a hero to so many.I owe it to audiences to treat the role with especial care. Monty James (M.R James) is also enjoyable; I try to play him with a dash of Peter Cushing channelling Doctor Who from the 1960s films. Oscar Wilde is a dream of a part to play, I always endeavour to show a level of sadness inherent with Wilde.
What can people expect if they venture to one of your performance? Is there blood, gore and jump scares involved?
Certainly not blood and gore, but plenty of jumps! What we aim to bring to modern day audiences is a glimpse into what theatre would have been like at the end of the nineteenth century. Our shows are macabre and weird, though always laced with humour, albeit of the gallows kind.
Have you ever experienced the paranormal yourself?
Not to the best of my knowledge, but I’ll believe in ghosts if they’ll believe in me.
Has anything strange ever happened to you during one of your performances?
I retain an open mind concerning the paranormal, we often perform in old theatres and manor houses, many of which are reputedly haunted. But again, nothing strange to report so far!
What’s next for you?
A production based on the death of Edgar Alan Poe and 2017 shows featuring A J Raffles and Dorian Gray. I’m also finishing a script for a show based around the Whitechapel Murders as well as our usual style this particular production will incorporate music hall numbers and comedy.
If you had to choose…Which one of these would you be Count Dracula, Frankenstein’s creature or a Werewolf?
Count Dracula, every time, but then I do play him in one of our shows, Dracula’s Ghost. He’s a character that takes a while to shake out of your system once the curtain goes down.
Anything else you’d like to tell me?
If you’re intending on coming to see one of our shows, never just rely on buying your tickets at the door; on the night. Those advance bookings and sales secure our attendance at the venue, so getting your tickets early really helps the show go on! We appreciate the support of everyone who takes the time to come and see us, so we wouldn’t want your desired show to be cancelled.
A splendid time is guaranteed for all!
Information and Tour Dates for Don’t Go Into the Cellar!’s many shows are available at: