Monday, 17 October 2022

REVIEW: The Canterville Ghost at the Southwark Playhouse

‘Tall stories’ was founded in 1997 by Toby Mitchell and Olivia Jacobs who have created and adapted productions for audiences of all ages ever since. The award-winning theatre company are recognised for their ability to combine original music with effective and immersive storytelling. The company have previously adapted Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales for their production of ‘Wilde Creatures’, so it seemed natural for them to adapt one of his ghost stories for the Halloween season.

The Canterville Ghost (1887), was the first of Oscar Wilde’s short comedic stories to have been published. The plot revolves around a family who moved to a castle which is haunted by the ghost of an English Nobleman who had resided in the castle 300 years before. This ghost had murdered his wife and then been tortured and starved to death in the chamber by his wife’s brothers. Jacobs and Mitchell’s adaptation intertwines with the ‘Old Music Hall’ genre. We meet four Victorian music hall performers who act out Wilde’s story alongside their own individual music hall acts; The Comedian (Matt Jopling), The Illusionist (Callum Patrick Hughes), The Psychic (Katie Tranter), and The Compere (Steve Watts).

Even though the music hall genre is very rare in the present entertainment industry, it was fundamental in the foundation of live entertainment and has a huge influence over the theatre we currently watch as a society. This company has reflected the genre's ideologies beautifully while keeping it current and entertaining to the contemporary audience. It is very immersive and keeps the entire audience laughing from the beginning to the end. The set designer (Barney George) successfully mimics a low-budget music hall set, but it is also productive and effective for scene changes.

In general, this production is well-crafted and incredibly easy to follow. All four of the artists on stage lend themselves to the obvious humour in the text and direction, which creates a beautiful company dynamic in this fast-paced production. The actors effectively multi-role, play instruments, sing, and have their own impressive music hall act. The ventriloquist work from Matt Jopling is especially spectacular; a clever mix of skill and humour all mixed into one performance. Even though the first act feels sharp and is delivered effectively, the second act lacks pace and clarity. This may be due to the shift in subject matter, but the second act feels rather slow, and in some places, it is quite messy in comparison to the precision of the first hour. There are a couple of moments where the jokes feel quite elongated and the material becomes a little repetitive. That being said, the music and singing in the second act are hilarious and beautifully touching.

In a world which feels very dark, this type of theatre is a perfect two-hour distraction from the current climate we are living in. Every moment is engaging and as an audience member, you will leave the auditorium with a sore stomach from laughing so much. This spooky show is playing at the Southwark Playhouse until November 5th.

Review by Isabella Kirkpatrick

Rating: ★★★

Seat: F8 | Price of Ticket: £24
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