Original story: Oscar Wilde
Writers and directors: Olivia Jacobs and Toby Mitchell
Christmas has arrived early at Southwark Playhouse, where Oscar Wilde’s short story, The Canterville Ghost, has been turned into a coat hanger for a set of Music Hall turns, featuring the kinds of trickery and all-round merriment that are normally held back for the pantomime season.
If it matters, the story concerns Mr Hiram B Otis (Steve Watts), who acquires Canterville Hall and moves in with his twin offsprings (Matt Joplin and Katie Tranter), only to find that the family is sharing its new home with the ghost of Sir Simon de Canterville (Callum Patrick Hughes), the alleged murderer of his wife back in the 16th Century. Rather than run away scared, as most previous occupants of the Hall had done, the family takes on the ghost and attempts to lay matters to rest.
This brief, thin storyline is broken into six sections, in between which the performers are given longish interludes to demonstrate their specialist skills. Hughes proves himself to be an accomplished illusionist with a string of fairly familiar magic tricks. Joplin turns his hand (the right one) to operating Eddie, a ventriloquists’ dummy, in a highly amusing comedy double act and Tranter lays claim to being a psychic, interacting with the audience in a less than successful stab at mind reading. Watts acts as master of ceremonies and pianist.
Directors Olivia Jacobs and Toby Mitchell, also the adapters of Wilde’s story, seem to give the four performers the freedom of the stage, always sticking to the flavour of Victorian Music Hall. They are aided in achieving this by designer Barney George’s moveable sets, consisting primarily of red velvet theatre curtains. Original songs in fitting style, with music and lyrics by Jon Fiber and Andy Shaw, add to the entertainment.
A separate, slightly more chilling tale emerges near the end, but, largely, this ghost story is pleasingly silly, inoffensive and almost everything else, apart from spooky.
Runs until 5 November 2022