Friday 31 May 2019

Ghosted - Theatre Review

What: Ghosted
When: 30 May - 1 June 2019
Where: The Loft, Chapel Off Chapel
Written by: Michael Thebridge
Directed by:Gabrielle Reiher
Performed by: Holly Chadwick, Lucinda Cowden, Ian Hart, Max Meaden, Kostas Moutsoulas, and Jayden Popik
Props by: Gabrielle Reiher and Isobel Summers
Costumes by: Chris Snow
Sound by: Matt Brown
Animation by: Bel Giles
Stage Managed by: Brendan Coppa
Kostas Moutsoulas, Brendan Coppa, and Holly Chadwick
It is cold this winter and what better way to warm up than a good belly laugh in a warm theatre with friendly bar staff? This is what you get when you drop into Chapel Off Chapel this weekend to see Thebridge's expanded stage play Ghosted.

Ghosted is a fun rom-com which began it's life as a 20 minute episode of The Owl and Cat team's Box Set 2018 at Club Voltaire. Whilst this production does not appear to be flying under the banner of The Owl and Cat it is basically the same creative ensemble who are taking the leap to a bigger stage and story - quite successfully I might add. I also believe it is in production for TV...!

Ghosted is the story of Oliver (Moutsoulas) and Kyle (Popik). Oliver is a lonely sommelier who spends his time with best friend Jordan (Chadwick). Jordan gets sick of his moping around and convinces him to get active on Grindr. The dating world is tough and as Oliver finds out, the experiences you have can haunt you forever if you let them!

Oliver finds Kyle on the dating app. Kyle was on his way to meet a friend at a club but decided to pop in for a booty call and thus we have that age old problem with these dating apps - who is looking for love and who is just looking for sex? Kyle definitely just wants to get jiggy with it and then go on with his evening, but Oliver is more of the slow hand type and wants to share wine and conversation. Star-crossed lovers indeed!

After Oliver struggles with the situation (and Kyle's pants) for a half hour or so, Kyle takes the opportunity to run off and 'ghost' Oliver. Fate intervenes however and Kyle is run over by his escape vehicle and ends up not being able to leave the apartment at all because he is now dead. After trying to ghost Oliver, Kyle is left in limbo forever destined to haunt him instead. Thus begins a fun and funny 2 hours of mischief and mayhem for them all.

Thebridge has done a good job of expanding this story to something so substantial and whilst I would have liked him to explore some more layers to give the work some complexity, most of the characters are well drawn and the actors have generally been able to find their archetypes with conviction. Cowden is the stand out as the medium Pauline who tries to evict the ghost through a seance and in the second act in particular, Popik really dives deep into the trickster archetype bringing a lot of laughs and and a great physical performance.

Chadwick has great physicality too, but she frowns way to much to really be able to sink her teeth - and the audience - into her ray of sunshine archetype. Koutsoulas is a good actor but his skills are more film oriented so we lose his nebbish in a sea of realism which is a shame given he is the central character.

Reiher (director) has gone with a very strong 50's graphic novel aesthetic for the show and where it has been applied it works extremely well. Her film skills allow her to work with projection with a high degree of sophistication and Giles' animations bring a lot of laughs. Those, linked with Brown's wonderfully funny sound design choices, create a great architecture to frame and compliment the play, moving the show forward and keeping the tone upbeat and humorous.

I really wanted more animation - especially in the second act- and perhaps it could have been used as set fill given Reiher's choice to go minimalist with the props (there is no actual set). Reiher ran the intimate performance space The Owl and Cat for several years and she is still slowly developing the skill to work in larger spaces. There are still a lot of anachronisms present in her staging which need to be addressed. In particular, there is a tendency in the staging to reduce the stage space which is at odds with the scale of the projections. The movement of the couch on and off stage (far too many times for my liking) show a lack of finesse with zoning and a dangerous affection for symmetry.

The big gulf for Reiher is the need to start collaborating with designers - especially lighting designers. So much manual handling could be reduced, and a much stronger sense of atmosphere can be created if she could find someone who understands the art of lighting - especially now that she has the opportunity to work in venues with resources and space. The sophistication of Reiher's ideas deserve that level of attention now.

Despite these areas of development not quite in realisation Ghosted is good, clean (and a little bit naughty) fun. The play moves at a great pace, is really well performed and brings lots of smiles and laughs. Thebridge brings a lot of puns to the script and the story really does keep us guessing about the outcome right to the end.

3 Stars

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