King’s Head Theatre – until 30 June 2018
Guest reviewer: Laura Thomas
This absurdist farce, Ghost About The House, tells the story of two romantic triangles playing out 70 years apart. Situated in the same house in Islington, literally and figuratively haunted by a tragedy in its past.
In the present day, thirty-something politician Richard (Matthew Gibbs) moves his 18-year-old new boyfriend Owen (Joe Wiltshire-Smith as a wide-eyed innocent abroad), into the house he shared with his husband, the paediatrician Alex (Timothy Blore). We discover that only the narcissistic Richard thought their marriage was over. Alex is devastated but fights back aided by his feisty big sister, Nita (Sioned Jones: superb). Shaken and insecure, he is further undermined by the attention of an invisible (to him) malevolent spirit.
Back in the 1930s, and in the same house, Eddie (Gibbs again) is shagging both the hunky servant Leonard (Wiltshire-Smith; a brilliant spoof) and the young master and mummy’s boy, Ian, whose ghost is haunting the present day. Jones again excels in the role of Ian’s mumsy, her Lady Millicent, is bursting with repressed sexuality, as she is pursued by the libidinous if limited Henry (Blore).
Director Scott Le Crass sets a cracking pace and milks the script for belly laughs, as the voice of the piece slips to and fro between mock-Downton and cod-EastEnders. The pre-war sections work best, the modern ones less so.
Gibbs playing of Richard creates a character that is too complex and interesting to fit with an absurdist milieu; he is pompous and self-centred, but also vulnerable and with a fear of real commitment. His desperation to replace his younger spouse Alex with the even younger, likeable, but limited, Owen, brings this home. He treats Owen with a casual contempt that the more sophisticated Alex would not tolerate, and flaunts his betrayal in the face of his devastated spouse. One senses a mid-life fading of libido, but, within the context of this play, Richard and Alex are written, played and directed too well. Three-dimensional men in a carnival of caricatures.
Photo Credit Bonnie Britain
Overall the tone is confused by the juxtaposition of the two contrasting styles, and by the explosion of sub plots, as the ten characters portrayed try to have sex with as many of the others as they can in as many combinations as possible. Frequent references to Brexit and the Spanish Civil War serve little dramatic purpose. The ending is over long and feels contrived, as Campling attempts to pull together a multiplicity of sub-plot threads.
A good romp, with pratfalls, slapstick and comic parodies, and loads of sight gags. The towel scene was particularly funny.
But one is left seeking for the echoes of a much more profound drama struggling to get out.
The King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper St, N1 1QN
7 JUNE – 30 JUNE 2018 Tues – Sat 7.45pm, Sun 5.15pm
Tickets £18/15 concessions (+ booking fee)
Box Office: Call: 0207 226 8561
Social Media Details Twitter: @GhostAboutHouse
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