The Other Palace, London – until 27 May 2017
Guest reviewer: Rosalind Freeborn
I don’t suppose many of us have ever lived in a lighthouse. These sturdy structures, perched on cliff edges or clinging to rocky outcrops figure strongly in the imagination as places of isolation, mystery and danger.
So, we feel for young Christopher as he clutches his small suitcase and meets his Aunt Lily, sensitively played by Dianne Pilkington, the lighthouse-keeper with limp, for the first time. We are somewhere on the eastern seaboard of the USA in 1942 and America is at war with Japan and Germany. Yasuhiro, played by Nicholas Goh, Aunt Lily’s faithful helper, clearly adores her and they’ve got along just fine for years. However, as fighting intensifies, Yasuhiro is regarded as a threat by the Government and Charlie, the local Sheriff (who also has a bit of a thing for Lily), comes to arrest the ‘alien’.
This potential ménage a trois (plus a young boy) provides plenty of interesting material which could have been further developed but these characters are not alone, oh no, the lighthouse is haunted. In every scene, the male and female ghosts, who look pretty healthy to us but are invisible to the human inhabitants, cause mischief by blowing out candles, moving objects around and whispering.
Young Christopher, well performed by Stanley Jarvis, is a feisty boy, unmoved, it seems, by the supernatural goings on and is keen to be patriot like his brave father, a pilot who was shot down by the Japanese; he is prepared to run away from the lighthouse and brave the stormy waters of a causeway in order to get to the asylum where his mother has been incarcerated. However, Christopher is very taken by Charlie the Sheriff, an excellent Simon Lipkin, who sits the boy at his feet and tells him the story of a terrible shipwreck when all on board were drowned. This is when we discover that the two ghosts are of singers who lost their lives and resolved to haunt the lighthouse in vengeance.
The creative team, Duncan Sheik, Kyle Jarrow and Keith Powell have taken inspiration from a raft of classic tales of the supernatural but I felt that giving the actual ghosts the centre stage removed any sense of menace. The ghosts, ably played by Simon Bailey and Niamh Perry are in very good voice and provide the vocal bedrock for nearly all of the songs. After the show was over they took to the microphones and did some serious jamming to the audience’s delight! The onstage band with seven musicians was impressive and tightly wrought, producing an interesting layering of sounds.
This is an entertaining show exploring some interesting themes and very well performed by an extremely talented cast.