The author of this review is relying on Criss Jami’s quote on plagiarism “When you have wit of your own, it's a pleasure to credit other people for theirs” to justify this view of at least some of what was delivered in the New Theatre by the Middle Ground Theatre Company’s offering of Classic Ghosts. There seems little point on this occasion of re-inventing the wheel when this review would only reflect, in the main, what has been said in some other reviews, but mainly those of Glen Pearce and Bob Steward on The Public Reviews website.
Pearce avers that “Theatre history is littered with the corpses of stage thrillers that have failed to chill their intended audience. For every long runner such as The Woman In Black there are a multitude of supposed fright-fests that turn out to be more of a wet blanket. Despite their pedigree of producing high quality touring productions, sadly Middle Ground Theatre Company’s double bill of Classic Ghosts falls into the latter category; the only nightmares likely to be caused by its ill-conceived effects and below-par performances.”
The use of the word corpse in Pearce’s review might suggest there was something of substance in this representation of M R James’s story Oh Whistle, And I’ll Come to You, My Lad. Sadly the production was more laughable than shocking or frightening, but laughable not in a comedic way.
Pearce goes on to say: “The plot could also be anywhere too, an unsatisfactory melding of confused sub plots that never lead anywhere. While Professor Parkins (played by Jack Shepherd) checks into The Globe Inn hotel, it’s not entirely clear if he’s checking in for a golf break or an archaeological investigation into a lost burial ground. Neither prove to be a convincing hook for an hour long-first half.”
The plot is indiscernible and whilst the ‘action’ takes place in various locations it is difficult to focus on each scene without one’s eye-line being drawn to other parts of the stage. For example whilst Parkins forages around in the rough for a lost ball (more like a lost cause) one’s eyes are also drawn to the hotel bedroom or it’s reception desk or the backcloth of the beach – it just doesn’t work, and probably wouldn’t work on any stage.
“The story may be weak but what ultimately destroys the piece lays not in its script but its execution.”
Pearce again is spot on in his observation; M R James is, after all, a renowned and respected writer of these scenarios. The acting, apart from that of Terrence Hardiman playing the Colonel, is poor and sometimes desperate. Why also was the audience subjected to the sight of Shepherd undressing and taking so much time over it? Arguably the most disturbing sight of the night!
The special effects are un-disturbing and as Pearce puts it are “melodramatic fright effects that would look more at home on an end of the pier ghost train.”
Steward adds further weight to the opinion that it was difficult to follow: “The projected images were confusing and I was asked by both my girlfriend and my 12 year old niece to explain it. I couldn't, and this just passed me by. Perhaps someone floating from wires appropriately dressed as a spirit would convey the same sentiment.
To miss the geographical opportunity seemed lazy. At this point I found making my own entertainment better, isn't fruit ninja a good game.”
The performance was lacking in so many ways that this reviewer was spirited away during the interval by a less than enthusiastic goddess.
However contact was made later with the Guardian who had been left behind to watch-over the second play. He was more positive about The Signalman having woken up halfway through it.
Let’s leave the last words to Glen Pearce
“A derailed production that is way below-par and likely to leave audiences chilled with disappointment rather than fear.”
Many thanks: to Glen and Bob for saving me the effort, and to Criss Jami for providing me with an excuse for plagiarism.
Criss Jami (born Christopher James Gilbert) is the author of "Diotima, Battery, Electric Personality" (2013), "Venus in Arms" (2012), and "Salomé: In Every Inch In Every Mile" (2011). Born May 29, 1987, he is the lead singer of the rock band Venus in Arms based in Washington, D.C. He is also a poet, essayist, existentialist philosopher, and the founder and designer of Killosopher Apparel. He studied philosophy at George Mason University.
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