The Canterville Ghost tells the tale of an American family who move to England to take up residence in a castle. The castle is haunted by the ghost of a dead nobleman, who killed his wife and was then starved to death by his wife’s brothers. On the surface, it doesn’t sound much like a kids’ theatre production, but thanks to an imaginative and creative approach, this is a stunning and entertaining production for all ages.
The Otis’s are a very modern American family who arrive in a haunted English pile with a ‘can-do’ positive approach – and a number of modern tinctures and products to solve any problem they face. Their steadfast resolve leaves no room for a ghost in the house.
Although the ghost does his very best to haunt them just as he has haunted hundreds before, they laugh at his efforts, scold his behaviour and lay a series of traps to torment him to leave their house. However it’s their softly-spoken, gentle, and often left on the outside daughter Virginia who has the true courage to get to the heart of the matter and put in the emotional work needed to stop the haunting once and for all.
The cast are phenomenal. Annie Fitsmaurice stands out with her absolutely fantastic portrayal of stereotypical dour housekeeper Mrs Umney. Her delivery is hilarious at every turn. The entire family is well-cast, with the enigmatic Nana-Amoo-Gottfried setting the tone as the energetic and positive-thinking Hiram Otis. Beth Cordingly is lovely as his focused wife, whilst Safiyya Ingar’s soft approach to daughter Virginia is lovely – particularly as she balances between displaying kindness and empathy even as she is defending her family.
Paul McEwan as Sir Simon’s ghost is tremendously funny, his haunting attempts are brilliant. His devolution into despair is well-done, and his plans for haunting are really rather fun. The picture-perfect positioning and timing of Nathaniel Wade’s solution-focused Washington Otis is fantastic, and the efforts of Mae Munro and Rose-Marie Christian as eight-year-old twins Stars and Stripes is convincing and appealing to the younger members of the audience.
There’s a lot of childish squeals on display, and the adverts – while funny and well done – don’t add much to the performance other than to break up the narrative and keep young minds interested. There’s a lot of turn-of-the-century magic tricks included, and the use of a black curtain allows for some clever (if not mildly clunky) trickery, particularly fun when Hiram eats meal after meal and Sir Simon does his headless attempt.
It’s energetic, and wisely the more somber, emotional part is saved for the shorter second half. It’s a loud, noisy riot of fun – and some clever thinking and wonderful casting make this a star of a show for younger audiences.
Written by: Oscar Wilde
Adapted by: Anthony Weigh
Directed by: Justin Audibert
Magic by: John Bulleid
Produced by: Unicorn Theatre
Booking Office: 02076450560
Booking Until: 5 January 2020
Booking Link: https://www.unicorntheatre.com/CantervilleGhost