Thursday, December 8

The Canterville Ghost – Southwark Playhouse

Coming up in the lift from the underground on my way to the Southwark Playhouse (fast becoming one of my favourite theatre venues – lovely space, absolutely delightful staff, reasonably priced wine) I saw a poster advertising The Canterville Ghost which proclaimed the warning “Contains puppet profanity”. I found this a very pleasing prospect – who doesn’t like a sweary puppet – and so I went into the performance hoping for some silly, joyful giggles. Which is, happily, exactly what I got; a charming, hugely entertaining evening of slick theatre and performances delivered by a talented cast.

While the show is based on the Oscar Wilde short story of the same name, the setup is very different – a play within a play if you will. A theatre group consisting of a musician/compere, a ventriloquist, a medium and a magician perform a play based on the story of the Canterville Ghost, interspersed with their own performances, and a spooky tale of their own.

In terms of genre, the mix of the 1920s music hall with a classic ghost story set against more modern comedy is an utter joy and perfectly executed. There’s an element of audience participation required, and this was willingly given by a delighted crowd who were tapping their feet and laughing at and with the performers from the off. The laughs are free-flowing and with some more risqué humour mixed with some more family friendly gags, there’s something to please everyone. The acting borders on hammy but suits the production perfectly – there are some panto echoes here which adds to the overall charm and by not taking themselves too seriously each performance is made all the more impressive.

The singing and musical performances are a lot of fun, and honestly, I would have been happy if they’d left it at a slightly zany comedy. But there are unexpected layers to the story which I found oddly moving and add up to more than just another comedy. Is this a bit of Halloween fun? Absolutely yes. But to leave the definition there would be selling this short – I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening and would absolutely recommend The Canterville Ghost to anyone with a sense of humour and a fondness for the odd profane puppet.

The Canterville Ghost runs at the Southwark Playhouse until 5th November.

Reviewer: Zoe Meeres

Reviewed: 15th October 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★