BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

28 October 2014

BBC Homepage
»BBC Local
Things to do
People & Places
Religion & Ethics
Arts and Culture
BBC Introducing
TV & Radio

Sites near Cambridgeshire


Related BBC Sites


Contact Us

Theatre and Dance

Robert Lloyd Parry
Robert Lloyd Parry

A Pleasing Terror...

Can terror be pleasing? Can it give you a thrill? Can it enthrall you? We met one man who's hoping it can...

Performance details

Performances begin on the 30th March and run every Friday and Saturday until 7th May (no performances on 20th & 21st April), with special Bank Holiday Monday showings. For performance details and more information contact the bookings office on - Scudamore's 01223 359750.  Tickets are on sale online on

Robert Lloyd Parry was born in Southport in Merseyside but now lives in Great Eversden after moving to Cambridge five years ago.  He's currently working as a freelance writer and actor doing MR James performances across the country, bringing a little gentle terror to the lives of the public.

Last year, he performed on the backs, gliding serenely along as darkness fell.  As a team of punts were chauffeured gently through the water and the colleges slipped by silently in the background, Robert Lloyd Parry assumed the tone and  the terror of one of the city's most quintessential ghost tellers...

Watch a video clip of Robert Lloyd Parry in MR James mode...
audio Play audio of Robert Lloyd Parry as MR James >
video Play video clip of performance excerpt >
Audio and Video links on this page require Realplayer
"with a rather tremulous hand, he put the key into its hole and turned it, it rattled, and on the instant a stumbling padded tread was heard..."
MR James - Rats

"I first read him when I was about 13. I kind of discovered him around about the same time that I discovered Sherlock Holmes - they're of the same vein; they're grippingly written stories and they have a rather nostalgic value to them - so, he'd always been part of my early reading experience. 

"When I moved to Cambridge, I was working at the Fitzwilliam Museum and I discovered that MR James had been the director of the Museum in about 1905 when he first published his ghost stories.  He may well have written these stories in the book-lined shadowy rooms of the Fitzwilliam and that's where, in fact, I first performed them. 

"One of the first stories that I performed is one of the first stories that he published and it's about a Cambridge scholar who discovers a medieval manuscript in a shadowy, crumbling old cathedral in the Pyrenees (Canon Alberic's Scrapbook).  This is, in fact, very autobiographical - this is what MR James did; he had a competition with one of his friends to see who could be the first to visit every cathedral in France - I think he won in the end.  This is very much the world in which MR James inhabited.  He was a scholar and he's best known for his ghost stories today, but the body of work of which he was most proud was his study of medieval manuscripts in Cambridge. 

"He went to King's as a student when he was about 17 and he stayed for about 35 years becoming a Fellow and then the Provost, then the Vice Chancellor of the University and then he took the radical step of becoming the Provost at Eton after his time at King's - so, his memoir is entitled 'Eton and King's' because that's where he spent his entire life.

"But, as mentioned, he's best known today for his ghost stories.  He wrote one a year, (probably, for about 35 years) and he wrote them as entertainment for his friends in Cambridge.  There are accounts of Christmases in King's College where the bachelor dons, who didn't have families to go home to, would go to chapel on Christmas Eve and after Chapel they'd have dinner and then go back to Monty James' room and listen to a ghost story by candlelight, drink port and eat anchovy toast.

"The show that I do, 'A Pleasing Terror', is a quotation from MR James - he said that his stories were intended to make one feel pleasantly frightened as one walked past a graveyard at night or sat by the embers of a dying fire."

And that's just what Mr Parry did in late Spring 2006.  Well, now he's back on tour.  With warm inviting tones, he leads you into the ghost world of MR James, where shadows and words flicker and play with your imagination against a unique backdrop of blackened colleges eerily silent against the night sky...

Performances begin on the 30th March and run every Friday and Saturday until 7th May (no performances on 20th and 21st April), with special Bank Holiday Monday showings. For performance details and more information contact the bookings office - Scudamore's 01223 359750 and you can buy tickets online at -

last updated: 08/03/07
Have Your Say
What, in your opinion, was MR James' finest story?
Your name: 
Your comment: 
The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Eibon B
I'm an avid reader of MR James. I think the first story I ever read of his, "Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad" is my favourite and for me one of his finest moments. The mood he creates is classic, brooding and ominous.

shane wallace of march
my favourite story of his was 'the carrion of rabbit sickness', it filled me with awe and jubilation as well as terror and an ominous feeling of stomach swell. never read with a stomach full of sandwich, trouble will beset thee..

Go to the top of the page

BBC Arts

External Links

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy