Rob Gilroy

The Ghostman Cometh

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Do you believe in ghosts? I don’t.

It’s not that I don’t want to believe in them, it’s just that there seem to be a lot of inconsistencies in how they’re portrayed in the media. For a start – why would they only haunt listed buildings? If you were given the chance to experience the afterlife, you’d want to do more than just work for the National Trust. Why do you never hear of ghosts haunting Pound Stretcher?

Also, why would they only contact us through mediums? If you’ve spent the majority of your life trying to get a decent signal out of EE, then you wouldn’t want a middle man standing in the way of a connection to the other side, no matter how good the deal on broadband was.

And while we’re at it, what’s with all the chains? Unless you’re a biker who died during a bondage convention, the chances of being wrapped in metal for the remained of eternity seems highly unlikely.

Yet, while I am sceptical about this whole thing, I’m open to being convinced. That’s why I recently bought tickets to see celebrity psychic medium, Shirley Ghostman. If anyone can convince me that there’s another plane of existence, it’s the man known as the Easy Jet of TV psychics.

If you’re not lucky enough to have caught Shirley’s previous shows – High Spirits­ or La La Land, both on the ironically soon-to-be-deceased BBC3 – then you’re missing out. Shirley takes what we know about spooks and spectres then turns it on its head; like putting Derek Acorah and Sally Morgan in a blender, and almost as satisfying. Whatever you know about Lady Di and her tragic end, Shirley has some home truths for you:

The brain child of the consistently brilliant Marc Wootton, Shirley Ghostman is a work of magic, managing to be both ridiculously over-the-top and yet utterly believable as psychic hack-for-hire. What’s incredible is the number of people willing to accept it all as truth. Whether it’s casual punters, sceptics who should be able to see past the wall of nonsense, or industry bods who just want to make money out of his ‘skillset’; they all fall for Shirley. You will too.

I’m a big fan of Marc Wootton. In my early character comedy years, I devoured every show he worked on. They all remain cult classics but shows like High Spirits with Shirley Ghostman, My New Best Friend and Cyderdelic are essential viewing. Taking the hidden camera format and creating something bigger and better; he is truly a man without fear.

For the brilliance of similar character acts, Ali G, Borat and Dennis Pennis, the unique nature of Wootton is his decision to take these larger-than-life characters and transplant them into the real world. While that doesn’t seem so unique, it’s the smaller, more intimate moments that really show his commitment to his craft. Anyone who watched as he forced a grown man to walk around his living room signing ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’ for two hours knows what he’s capable of.

Wootton was a massive influence on me and my characters. His ability to hide himself behind an array of characters was – and is – simply stunning. If, like me, you’re the sort of geek who gets off on sketch shows that are mainly performed through monologue, I urge you to seek out Marc Wootton Exposed; his short lived but underappreciated show. The BBC in their wisdom decided not to release a DVD, but it is long overdue. Maybe Shirley can resurrect it?

So, this October he and his spiritual alter ego are hitting the road for an amazing Spooktacular Live On Ice. The only things I’ve ever seen performed on ice were Disney’s Pocahontas and the National Speed Skating Championships 1997 – so this show is in esteemed company. If you love explosive comedy that promises to be both hilarious and near the knuckle, this is the show for you.

And if, like me, you don’t believe in ghosts; have no fear. After seeing Shirley, you’ll never want to step foot in a theatre again.

For tickets to see Shirley Ghostman live, follow the link.