Ghost at The Piccadilly Theatre, London

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Although I don’t subscribe to the view that any popular film will work on the stage (it won’t), something about Ghost caught my attention. When the lead roles were taken over by Mark Evans and Siobhan Dillon, both actors that I have a great deal of respect for, I knew that it was time to head for the theatre.

I am glad to say that I wasn’t mistaken in my faith in these two lead actors. Evans is an outstanding male vocalist with power and charisma in abundance – for me, he is easily among the best of the male actors currently performing in The West End. The harmonies between him and Dillon, who put in an excellent performance as Molly, were beautiful. In a show of effortlessness, neither seemed at all phased by the big notes that their parts required them to pull off.

The standard of acting was generally very high indeed although I did find that American accents were variable, sometimes slipping and sometimes causing an unfortunately severe lack of diction noted by both myself and my companion. The musical structure was slightly repetitive and in places lyrics did smack a little of desperation (the rhyming of ‘focus’ and ‘locus’ springs to mind), but this may well be something which is changed in future productions.

Use of illusion throughout the production ranged from good to stunning. Rapid swapping of actors appeared as magic to the audience, complimented by excellent attempts to divert the attention of spectators away from what the cast did not want them to see. Death scenes involving the splitting of ghost from dead body were masterfully accomplished – not once did I manage to catch the dead body being brought on as the now spectral actor moved around the stage.

The projection that accompanied the overture at the beginning of the show almost resembled a television theme tune, something which I found to be odd and out of place. This use of unnecessary technology was a recurrent element throughout the musical. Although some would no doubt call me out-of-date for holding this view, I find the use of video or projection in place of intelligent set design to be both lazy and insulting to the audience, lessening the theatrical experience and hindering the suspension of disbelief. Where physical sets were used (such as Carl’s office) they were extremely clever and intricate, showing that this overreliance on technology was not by any means due to a lack of creative capability.

Too much of the lighting was wild and chaotic, but, in keeping with set design, where it was good, it was very good indeed. The white lighting effect used on ghostly characters was excellent and the effects used to signal entry into heaven or hell perfectly suited the mood of these scenes.

In spite of some truly outstanding lead performances and excellent illusion, Ghost has the feel of a show trying to overcompensate for some hidden flaw. The irony is that it is the act of doing this which is the show’s biggest weakness.

6/10 – A perfectly acceptable show with some strong elements, Ghost sticks loyally to the popular film which inspired it but has a tendency to drown its audience in unnecessary technology and overly extravagant lighting.

Ghost is playing at The Piccadilly Theatre until Thursday 6th October 2012. Tickets can be bought here.

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