Spirited storytelling: ‘Creeping Murmur; Poring Dark’

Poster for 'Creeping Murmur; Poring Dark".
A creepy mansion is pictured. 
Text reads: "John D. Huston
Creeping Murmur; Poring Dark
"I nearly jumped out of my skin"
CBC Winnipeg ****1/2"

A peculiar parlour game, a sauce salesman, a ghost ship, and a little girl behind a door. In Creeping Murmur; Poring Dark, John D. Huston transforms an unassuming hotel conference room into a site of spectral thrills. Though breakfast had barely settled in my stomach by the time I took my seat, I was immediately transported to a late-night world of chilling tales by Huston’s wry, lively storytelling. 

Huston presents four stories from 1890-1930, the golden age of the ghost story. These stories are suspenseful but not too scary, and Huston has adapted them for the stage with uncanny deftness. Huston handles a variety of voices and accents with ease, and his expressive speech and measured physicality immediately assure the audience that they’re in the presence of a professional. 

Huston’s voice becomes eerily soft in moments of suspense, forcing listeners to lean in closely to hear what happens next. This is a highly effective way of holding the audience’s attention, but at times it made it difficult to decipher his words. While it was the perfect amount of creeping, there was just a little too much murmur. 

Following the sequence of the stories takes dedicated focus—if listeners let their minds wander for more than a moment, they may find themselves lost in the dark. Huston jumps between tales more rapidly as the hour progresses, culminating in a climactic four-part fright. 

While cycling between stories allows Huston to build suspense slowly—in the beginning, I almost forgot I was listening to ghost stories—the finale ends up feeling a bit crowded. I found myself wanting more time to savour each deadly denouement before moving on to the next. Be that as it may, I left Creeping Murmur; Poring Dark sufficiently chilled for a Monday afternoon. 

‘Creeping Murmur; Poring Dark’ is playing at the Confederation Place Hotel in the TK Fringe Festival until August 13th, 2023. Find more information and tickets here.