Tuesday, July 5

The Canterville Ghost The Musical – Hope Street Theatre

Every now and then a gem of a show comes along and leaves you thinking about it after like a dramatic hangover. This is that show.

Unique, creative and hilarious, The Canterville Ghost – The Musical is based on Oscar Wilde’s renowned text. Be a fly-on-the-wall and witness the arrival of the brash, American Otis family as they arrive at Canterville Manor. Disrupting the peace of the Mrs Umney the housekeeper (Lizzy Paes) and the Butler (Luke Furlonger-Copeland), the Otis’ and their three daughters make themselves at home.

Mr Otis (Omar Hussein) and Mrs Otis (Neve McLaughlin) are sceptical about warnings of the malicious Simon de Canterville (Jack Royens) ghost. Their mischievous twins, Stars (Frankie Fleming) and Stripes (Katie Moncaster) are also not fazed by the resident ghoul but their elder sister, Virginia (Solenna Le Goff) is open-minded. She engages with the dejected Simon de Canterville, providing a tender side to the production through their friendship.

Virginia is a girl who wants more from life and to love and be loved. She wants to be free. Finding common ground, Simon de Canterville’s softer side is revealed as he also just wants to be free. There are some gentle exchanges between them, especially when he advises Virginia about her love, The Duke of Cheshire (Jennifer Morrow). There is also a poignant monologue on death from Simon de Canterville that is written beautifully and delivered with all the grace of Shakespearean acting.

The culture clash between the Aristocratic English and modern Americans is captured particularly well, with the script, music and actor’s skills showing the sharpness you’d usually be expecting from edited screen shows rather than theatre. It is a production that demands sustained focus from the actors, and they deliver.

Giggle along at the interactions between the Otis family and the foiling of Simon de Canterville’s plots to scare. There are tripwires, trickery and a triumphant capture using pillows and a sheet.

He finds it a struggle to strike fear into the resilient Otis family and questions his purpose in a way that is relatable. While lamenting his lacking prowess in the fright-stakes, he also contends with the twins as they terrorise him back with a string of pranks.

Music both supports and structures the production. Compositions by Jack Gloyens offer both humour and really showcase his talent for song and lyrics. Nod along to ‘Republican Simplicity’, lose yourself in Virginia’s beautiful rendition of ‘Nightingale’ or laugh along at the playfully theatrical ‘Simon de Canterville’.

Both written and directed by David Jones, founder of Magpie Theatre, this interpretation brings refreshing new energy into a well-known tale. It hasn’t neglected the layers of the characters and doesn’t feel singularly like a comedy or a musical. There is a good balance of variety between them.

It is an entertaining evening. The first half may benefit from moving the plot forwards quicker as it did feel comedy-heavy at times, but it was good comedy to watch. This is the kind of show you can happily see again at any time of the year with any age.

There were times when the speech moves a bit fast for the audience or wasn’t as clear as it could be. However, the production is performed without mics and uses high energy for a long period.

It’s the kind of show you need to experience for yourself. With a creative script and music that appeals across ages and genres, The Canterville Ghost – The Musical provides an excellent evening of entertainment.

Visit Magpie Theatre’s website or follow on Facebook here for details about future performances.

Reviewer: Ezzy LaBelle

Reviewed: 26th May 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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