Is parapsychology a science?

I was surprised to discover that there are at least two research groups at UK universities dedicated to the study of parapsychology. There is even a short course you can sign up to. However, whether or not parapsychology can be considered a science is not actually the question I want to address here. The Nature of Network notwithstanding, I want to segue into a theatre review.

If you want to learn something about parapsychology, and you want a great night out, go and see Ghost Stories at The Duke of York’s Theatre in London’s west end.

Onstage, Professor Philip Goodman is a professor of parapsychology. Skeptics everywhere will be reassured by his confident debunking as he delivers his lecture on the paranormal. His presentation is dramatised by case studies from his work. If only all lectures could be this involving.

Whether or not Ghost Stories lives up to its “truly terrifying” tagline will depend on the spirit in which you enter into the thing. As someone who habitually avoids both horror films and ghost trains, I was already uneasy when we arrived at the theatre. The show is engaging, thrilling, and original…my heart rate took some time to return to normal at the end of the evening!

Ghost Stories is written by Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson. The two of them direct the production together with Sean Holmes. Andy Nyman is perhaps best known for the work he does with Derren Brown in the creation of Derren’s television and stage shows. In an interview on Radio 2 on Saturday morning1, he discusses how the audience that come to see the show are a mixture of traditional theatre-goers and, as interviewer Patrick Kielty describes them,

the cast of Weatherspoons.

So, even if you are not someone who typically goes to the theatre (or to Weatherspoons, for that matter), you might well enjoy this rollercoaster production.

Jeremy Dyson is familiar to most for his role in The League of Gentlemen, but I first encountered him when I was given his collection of short stories, Never Trust A Rabbit. The collection is reminiscent of Roald Dahl’s short stories (which, incidentally, you should also read). I have since read Dyson’s other books, which are somewhat unsettling, but neither as much as the first collection.

After the show, Nyman and Dyson were interviewed by Jonathan Ross and questions were sourced from the audience.

Photo via twitter

I earned a cheer from the audience for my question, but I am not telling you the answer. To do so would reveal too much.

So, go and see Ghost Stories – It is on at the Duke of York’s Theatre, booking until November. And read Never Trust A Rabbit. But possibly not on the same night.

1 The interview can be heard on BBC iPlayer (from about 28 minutes in) until Friday.

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