"thrillingly theatrical collision of spirits"
by Michael Gray for remotegoat on 24/02/18

The Victorians loved theatrical ghosts; they would have approved, almost certainly, of this free adaptation of Wilkie Collins’ “little novel”, first published in 1885.
John Goodrum’s version for Rumpus, which he also directs and designs, is an ingenious two-hander. Two lost souls meet in Kensington Gardens. Both have known loss, and their stories gradually intertwine in a “silly limbo”, a supernatural “collision of spirits”.
The audience shares the sense of the unreal, since all the other characters in the story – the child Lucy, the sinister dentist, the impertinent housekeeper – are disembodied voices.
Terri Dwyer brings a wealth of experience to give a compelling performance as Mrs Zant, still in mourning for her husband, longing for his touch as she daily revisits the copse where first they met. If Mark Homer is somewhat less convincing as the stranger she encounters amongst the trees, he comes into his own as his formal politeness is shattered by the disappearance of his daughter during a storm at St Sallins-on-Sea, another of their favourite haunts.
The dénouement - thrillingly theatrical and a long way from Collins’ own ending – uses a clever twist and telling time-shifts to bring some resolution to these restless spirits, a happy ending of sorts to two tragic lives.
David Gilbrook’s sound design – Satie picked out on a piano, a Victorian railway station, ghostly, ethereal music – enhances the mood, leading us, as Collins wanted, onto “new and strange ground”. Subtler, more atmospheric lighting might have made it easier for us to “see” the apparitions, though the shifting presence of Mrs Zant is effectively suggested. And it would be easier to accept the speaking “to the vacant air” if the recorded voices [including a superb turn by Goodrum as the “so-called brother-in-law”] had more closely matched the delivery of the actors on stage, rather than sounding resolutely studio-bound.
This original staging of an obscure piece by the author of The Woman in White was first seen back in 2012; this revival has been touring since last September. The ghosts are laid to rest, at least for this season, in Winchester at the end of this month.

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