He’s written horrors, thrillers and sci-fi odysseys. As his new play about Victorian spiritualism opens, the dramatist explains why no territory is out of bounds for theatre, not even Pluto

Alistair McDowall’s new play The Glow transports its audience back to the 1860s where Mrs Lyall, a spiritualist medium, is visiting an asylum, searching for someone to act as an assistant. There she finds a strange, nameless, voiceless woman and takes her home, only to discover that the woman herself has powers.

The premise is not wholly unfamiliar but McDowall is concerned as much with English myth and Arthurian legend as he is with the supernatural: how the past remains with us in the present and how we fictionalise history to make sense of ourselves. McDowall set out to write a fairytale “that had actual consequences”, taking something that appears to reside in the realm of the fantastic and grounding it in the real world “for there to be cost and emotional heft”.

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