Folk Horror Revival recently got wind of a new show being performed in London this Saturday the 15th in London. We spoke to the creator about the piece and his inspirations.
So, if you can first tell us a bit about yourself?
In my day to day life I am mere actor/writer John Henry Falle but onstage I am the mortal vessel for cosmic bullshit merchant, The Story Beast. He’s an immortal wizard whose seemingly self-appointed duty seems to be to tell the Old Tales a-new and the New Tales a-old. He’s basically a crap, slightly pissed up version of Doctor Who.
What’s This Is Bardcore about then?
It’s a Prog Rock Folk Horror Comedy Show or #ProRoFolkHoCoSho…I’m sure that’ll get trending soon. This is my second show as The Story Beast. The first got nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award for Best Newcomer (formerly the Perrier) and This Is Bardcore finds him arriving in our dimension accompanied by his best mate – a sentient Tree rooted to the Centre of your Reality. He’s entirely convinced that the world is coming to a very swift end. I take the audience on a folkloric trip through our collective unconscious via Blue Peter, an epic poetry rendering of Die Hard and the geological history of the Earth told through the medium of Rock & Roll. I’m hoping this is how I get on Live At The Apollo.
Where does your interest in folk horror stem from?
I grew up in the countryside on the island of Jersey surrounded by cows and a lot of those terrors felt quite close to the surface, I suppose. We lived in an old farmhouse where my Dad had grown up. The house was on a hill above a Mental Hospital where my Great-Grandad had spent the last third of his life. We found an actual stillborn child in the walls of the house once.
The plumbing in the house went to shit and flooded out my parent’s bedroom. Just this hideous black dripping as the water flowed through years of dust and horse-hair plaster. The whole room had to be ripped apart and on the inside of the walls we found this bricked up little alcove. A window where a window shouldn’t be. So we opened it up and on the inside we found some pages torn out of The Book Of Common Prayer, a shoe and the dusty, leathery protuberance of a stillborn child.
Isn’t that the plot to Nigel Kneale’s “Baby“?
Pretty much! And we never found out why, either! It must have been someone over a century ago who were giving their baby a decent burial. But Jersey is a full of that sort of folkloric strangeness. There’s an active coven of witches on the island! Down the road was the Barn where the people of the Parish would make the float for the island’s annual Battle Of Flowers. I remember when I first saw The Wicker Man when I was 14 and thinking “This is all a bit familiar.” I live in South London now and I think one of the reasons I love Folk Horror so much is just basic Nostalgia.
Why do you think Folk Horror has caught the public mood right now?
I’m not the first to say this but it feels like a perfect metaphor for what’s going on in this country right now, doesn’t it? That dangerous nostalgia. The desire to go back to— what? The 70s? The 30s? The Past in general despite the dreadful things we left there? This show is slightly more political than my first one as it’s the first I’ve done since the BrexiTrump happened and I’m one of those tedious, explosive Remoaners who can’t stop talking about the State of this Country once he gets going. One of my opening songs is a Pink Floyd-y rock number called “Whatever Happened To The Country That You Once Knew?“ where I sing about that nostalgia and how it constantly blooms into violence, madness and bestiality.
Do you think there is something peculiarly British about it?
Well we may have the Unholy Trilogy but Children Of The Corn seems as prescient a version of Trump’s America. What seems particularly British is how susceptible we are to a certain stripe of Fantasy. We invented the genre and if you look at a lot of the Tolkiens and Lewises they have this Romantic with a Capital R belief that if we only get the Good King back on his throne then everything will be alright again. Horror from Mary Shelley onwards is more equivocal and clear eyed about how fragile society can be and the dreadful things we’re capable of as a species. Folk Horror looks at our violence head on. It tells us that if your only concern is to purify society this will inevitably lead to burning the Outsider or the Witch. 52% of the country told the Eastern European seasonal workers to Fuck Off and now our Summer Fruit crop rots on the vine. Jersey’s little different. The island couldn’t vote in a UK Referendum but the motivation is there. The Jersey Royal crop was disappointing this year because there no one there to pick the bloody potatoes! The island’s farming has always depended on outside seasonal workers to pick the potatoes be it Bretons or Irish or Portuguese or Polish people. The local paper had the temerity to blame the weather this year. Apparently the Romanians were leaving because it was too rainy. What really happened is that when they went into a pub they’d be made to feel unwelcome by a load of thick proto-fascists. These people don’t have to come to Britain. They’re bright people who know the value of their labour and they’ll go somewhere else if they feel they’re not wanted. Sorry – got carried away there.
With all that Doom and Gloom do you think Folk Horror and Comedy can coexist?
I think they go hand in hand! The one thing that doesn’t seem to get said about The Wicker Man in all the articles about The 78 Greatest Horror Films That’ll Make You Shit Yourself is that it’s really, really funny. I was 10 when that first episode of The League Of Gentleman came on. Far too young. My Mum only turned it off when Tubbs started breastfeeding the Pig. It was the most shocking thing I’d ever seen but it also had silly people doing funny voices and that’s what lured me in. My brother and I still quote “And in the cupboard beneath the stair / You’ll find the towel for pubic hair.” You gotta laugh, don’t you?
Who should see this show?
Well your readers obviously. If you like 70s rock, classic Doctor Who, Horror and can’t get tickets to the League Of Gentlemen reunion then this is the Comedy Show for you! Also you get to see a hairy man sweating through a whole trench coat in an hour so there is honestly something for everyone.
The Story Beast: This Is Bardcore is on 9pm This Saturday at 2Northdown in London’s Kings Cross