It has long been claimed that the lady in black who haunts the beautiful old Theatre Royal in King Street, home of the Bristol Old Vic, is none other than the great actress Sarah Siddons. There are similar tales of Siddons haunting other theatres but why should she haunt the Theatre Royal where she rarely appeared and where nothing momentous happened to her?
The answer is that the Theatre Royal's dark lady is indeed the ghost of a Sarah, but not Sarah Siddons. She is the wraith of Sarah, mistress and then wife and widow of actor/manager William Macready. He ran the theatre in Victorian times and after his death his widow kept the place going through very difficult times, sometimes paying actors' wages from her own pocket when box office takings were poor.
She is never seen in parts of the theatre built after her day and she is not unpleasant. At her worst she can be annoying and silly, making lights spin or appearing in the auditorium as she keeps an eye on the theatre she helped save from bankruptcy. 'Seeing Sarah' has become a Theatre Royal tradition, but over the years her name became muddled with that of another, more famous Sarah.
But Sarah isn't the only spook at the Theatre Royal. Another ghost there is called Richard. He worked in the paint shop making and painting scenery, he died in a tragic accident and stage staff come across him from time to time.
He was working on the mighty frame, a huge easel used for painting big backdrops, raised and lowered by a very large wheel. A cog failed to engage, the frame plummeted and the flying handle of the wheel smashed into his head, killing him.
The actor Nigel Stock, famous for his stage, TV and film appearances, once entered the paint shop and froze at a particular spot ... Richard's spot. He told the painters he knew the place was haunted, but he wasn't telling them anything new. They were well used to the ghost which stands just out of direct eyesight but which moves objects and even sends some shooting across the room.
The paint shop staff have got used to Richard and his occasional visits, but they wish that instead of playing tricks on them he'd get to work and paint some of the scenery at night.
A memory shared byon Dec 5th, 2009.
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