THE nocturnal path to the porch of St Martin-cum-Gregory Church in Micklegate is lined with foreboding red lights down one side, candle-lit lanterns on the other.

Once inside, eyes are drawn to the thin-fingered, thinner-faced, thinnest-lipped James Swanton, wringing his hands on his knees in a prayer position, as a muffled choir sings "O tidings of comfort and joy" through a haze of industrial noise pollution. More candles give off wan light, gathered around the altar rail.

If you are asked if you want a cup of mulled wine as you present your ticket, the answer is yes. You will need its reviving powers, first to stiffen your pluck against what is soon to unfold and, secondly, because after the hour's grisly business on the stone floor, the temperature feels as if it has dropped ten degrees.

Writer-performers Robyn Grant and James Swanton (York's answer to Peter Cushing and Vincent Price) first met when working in the depths of the York Dungeon, where they discovered a mutual love of Gothic storytelling and Victoriana.

As an antidote to the plethora of pantomimes, here is Winter Gothic, where there will be no tidings of comfort and joy but increasingly gripping storytelling in the manner of The Woman In Black.

Swanton plays a magistrate, who may or may not have had a disreputable past and calls on the services of Grant's high-spirited spiritualist (albeit much more sinister than Noel Coward's Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit). He needs her to contact his dead wife to resolve some unfinished business.

Grant's spiritualist happens to be a conduit too for three ghost stories of bloody murders, told by Swanton and Grant with intensity, theatrical mischief-making, not a little fear and role-sharing flexibility, before a finale you will not see coming as a single candle flickers.

Wrap up warm; gird the loins and be prepared to be thoroughly spooked.

Winter Gothic will be performed at 8pm, tonight and December 28 and 29; 6pm tomorrow; 6pm and 8.30pm, Boxing Day and December 27. Box office: