So most people should be aware of Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost. If not, let me bring you up to speed. A family move into an estate haunted by a nobleman who murdered his wife before vanishing. Despite Sir Simon’s most gruesome haunting skills, the family refused to be scared and make fun of him, leaving Sir Simon to feel humiliated and worthless.
The Canterville Ghost isn’t a straight adaptation, it’s a play within a performance. The actors of the piece are playing music hall acts, and in turn each act has a role in the play. The play is broken down into six small key sections, and while it isn’t a comprehensive telling of Oscar Wilde’s tale, it does manage the get the entirety of the story told, albeit abridged.
During the interludes of each part of the play, the players perform a different act. We have a ventriloquist, a magician, a medium and the groups’ chairman, a singer and pianist. Each player performs a different role, and each one was fantastic in their performance; it really was the highlight of the show. A feat more impressive if you consider that each actor had to learn their skill in only six months.
The whole performance is largely played for laughs, especially the performance of the ventriloquist who was using an older style ‘creepy’ dummy. His ventriloquist skills were actually very impressive and his part was the best of the bunch. The chairman was a great singer and musician and the magician was incredibly talented.
I had heard some criticism leveled at the decision to make the medium, the only female character, the weakest. I don’t believe this was the case. With magic the audience know they are being fooled, a medium’s is to con the audience. In 2018 we know this is a con, so I believe it this was a creative decision to mock the medium of, um, being a medium, and not to make light of the only female performer. Who, conveniently, was awesome and did some wonderful illusion with the audience and even broke character when she genuinely thought she’d predicted someone’s profession.
The Canterville Ghost’s tale also mirrors a second tale which is revealed towards the end of the performance regarding the fate of the players, which genuinely tugs at the heartstrings. It’s a beautifully staged piece that makes the most of set, lighting and sound, but above all else, the performances were spot on.
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An immensely charming play with a dollop of wonderfully realised vaudeville.
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