A play within a play. A nod towards music hall theatre. A Wilde evening, with a subtle and suitable amount of smut. The Canterville Ghost is the perfect tonic for cheering up an audience which may be as gloomy as the weather at the moment (especially those who have tracker mortgages).
Four different performers get to showcase their talents (including magic tricks and ventriloquism) in conjunction with re-telling Oscar Wilde’s short story, The Canterville Ghost. The lose structure belies some tight direction. Jaunty, throwaway songs are filled with throwaway lines, accompanied by some clever choreography. If the play is a mishmash of elements, it is a mishmash which works.
The production is set at a breakneck pace. There are plenty of gags and most of them get laughs. The confident and competent cast all have their moments, individually and collectively. Steve Watts is an able compere and father figure, providing touches of wisdom and warmth. Callum Patrick Hughes is magic as Thomas Arturo, ghosting in and out as Simon de Canterville too. Matt Jopling clowns around, with an accent befitting the postcode, as The Comedian. And Katie Tranter is mesmerising as The Psychic, projecting wit and charm. Casting directors should duly take their business cards to give out after the final curtain.
Praise of course should also go to Eddie, Jopling’s ventriloquist’s puppet. Eddie gives a wooden yet wonderful performance. The writing and delivery of the scene should be applauded. Not a line or head turn is wasted. I was probably not the only member of the audience who wanted the smart little man – no dummy he – to return in earnest.
The show may be hard to wholly define in one line, but it is easy to enjoy. Which is far more important.
Credit should go to Tall Stories Studio and The Southwark Playhouse. The theatre, staffed by a professional and personable team, should be congratulated for profiling and promoting even more new talent, both on and off stage.
The ghost of Oscar Wilde may well haunt the venue soon, to catch and appreciate the show.
The Canterville Ghost is on at the Southwark Playhouse until 5th November.
Richard Foreman is the author of Raffles: The Complete Innings.