Reviews for The Ghost’s Touch
The Sussex Newspaper
Review – The Ghost’s Touch – Eastbourne
BY PAUL LUCAS-SCOTT ON SEPTEMBER 27, 2017 THEATRE
Having never witnessed a ghost story played out on the live stage, my visit to see Rumpus Theatre Company’s adaptation of Wilkie Collins’ spine-chilling tale at the Devonshire Park Theatre is seriously new ground and, as the lights dim and the curtain rises, I breathe deeply.
The stage is quite spartan, with just a wrought iron bench for scenery. On the bench is Stephen Rayburn, played by Mark Homer, who begins to narrate this tale of the events that are unfolding in Victorian London.
He tells us of a woman, who we later learn is Mrs Amy Zant, that he first sees in Kensington Gardens, hiding among the trees and acting very strangely. He goes on to explain how he begins to talk with her but, due to her strange behaviour, worries about her mental wellbeing.
Mrs Zant is played by Terri Dwyer and, together with Homer, they play out the entire story as a two-hander. This helps to focus on the characters and storyline, and the disembodied voices of the other characters in the tale really ramp up the fear factor.
Millie Henson is the young and innocent voice of Lucy Rayburn, the daughter of Stephen who has been a widower since his wife, Lucy’s Mother, killed herself. Susan Earnshaw supplies a wonderful characterisation of Mrs Zant’s creepy landlady while John Goodrum is even creepier as John Zant, Amy Zant’s brother.
The final voices are those of Karen Henson as Mr Zant’s Housekeeper and Daniel Gilbrook as the boy who brings some terrible news to Mr Rayburn one day in Kensington Gardens…
Homer and Dwyer are both superb in their roles, delivering their lines with strength and clarity throughout the increasingly terrifying tale. Dwyer continues to act in the most bizarre ways with Homer desperately trying to make some sense of her actions, although it is obvious that her behaviour leaves him bewildered and frustrated at times.
It would, of course, be churlish of me to reveal the details of the plot and the outcome of the tale, but I can say that the last 10 minutes of the piece do put all the pieces back together very neatly and answer so many of the questions that were being asked during the interval.
With just the almost bare stage, it is left to some clever lighting effects to create the illusion of the park, a seaside town and even the rooms of several houses but, without any scenery to distract the senses, concentration falls on the cleverly written words of one of the Victorian era’s most successful writers and, judging by the totally silent auditorium, I wasn’t the only one totally focussed on this superbly crafted piece.
**** Four Stars
British Theatre Guide
Wilkie Collins is primarily known for his 1859 mystery novel The Woman in White, his work nine years later The Moonstone—considered to be the first modern English detective novel—and his collaboration with Charles Dickens.
John Goodrum, founder of Rumpus Theatre Company, discovered that Collins had written a short story or “little novel”, The Ghost’s Touch!, otherwise known as Mrs Zant and the Ghost. He turned it into a play which Rumpus produced in 2012; now it is being revived for a tour which continues until February 2018 after opening at Chesterfield’s Pomegranate.
The plot involves widower Stephen Rayburn and his young daughter Lucy paying one of their customary visits to Kensington Gardens. She becomes frightened after seeing a woman who she says might be mad.
The woman is Mrs Zant whose husband has recently died. They acknowledged their love for each other in the gardens and she goes there because she thinks she can see his ghost.
While those around her do not take her seriously, Rayburn is irresistibly attracted to her. He wants to help her overcome her fears and regain her health. But tragedy ensues, causing guilt, blame and condemnation to come between them.
The Ghost’s Touch! is a two-hander, with five characters appearing only as voices. At first it seems odd to see Rayburn conversing with his daughter who is not there and Mrs Zant being chided by her brother-in-law John, voiced chillingly by Goodrum.
During the interval, several members of the audience tried to decipher hidden meanings and predict the ending. Everything is made clear and takes on greater significance once you realise how it all fits together.
Mark Homer as Rayburn holds the production together masterfully. He does not command the stage with a powerful presence but has an understated, natural way about him which makes him endearing.
He draws you into his situation and you feel for the widower bringing up his young daughter alone who has feelings for the attractive if mysterious woman he meets by chance.
Early on, Terri Dwyer is suitably enigmatic as the shadowy Mrs Zant. She elicits sympathy for the way people treat her as she struggles to overcome her grief and loss. Dwyer comes into her own towards the end when she is distraught at a tragedy which threatens to have irreversible consequences for her relationship with Rayburn.
There is little colour in the production, Mrs Zant wearing funeral black and Rayburn dark clothes on a bleak set. However, the reasons for the gloomy environment become apparent at the end. Keith Tuttle’s lighting and David Gilbrook’s sound add to the sinister atmosphere.
The Ghost’s Touch! is not an edge-of-your-seat, chilling drama that maintains a vice-like grip throughout. It is a well-crafted, finely acted piece that needs a fair amount of concentration.
The production calls on you to use your imagination and not make any assumptions. By doing that, you can get more out of it and will want to discuss its composition and meaning long after you have left the theatre.
Review: Wilkie Collins’ The Ghost’s Touch!
REVIEW: WILKIE COLLINS’ THE GHOST’S TOUCH!
rhiwbinainfo / October 3, 2017 / Comments Off on Review: Wilkie Collins’ The Ghost’s Touch! / Review
A pleasant visit to the park with his daughter, in 19th century London, turns into something much more unsettling for widower Stephen Rayburn in the opening scene of Wilkie Collins’ The Ghost’s Touch!, which opened at the New Theatre tonight (Tuesday October 3rd).
An encounter with the mysterious, but irresistably attractive Mrs Zant, sends our lead character on a mission to help her. But is she ill or mad? The more he discovers, the more puzzling it all seems.
This is an intriguing story, cleverly staged by Rumpus Theatre Company, with the simplest of sets, and a superb cast of two – Mark Homer (from TV’s EastEnders, Casualty, and Silent Witness) as Rayburn and Terri Dwyer (Law & Order UK, Holby City, and Hollyoaks) as Mrs Zant.
With virtually no scenery or props, the production relies heavily on this central pair, and they deliver excellent performances, which keep the audience gripped throughout.
Other parts are voices off-stage, including the disturbing and sinister figure of John Zant, voiced by John Goodrum, who also deserves much praise as the play’s writer and director.
If the audience thinks it understands what’s what and who’s who in the first act, there’s a shock in store – a shock big enough to send them scratching their heads as they sip their interval drinks.
And there are even greater shocks to come before the truth is revealed.
This is an excellent production, smartly staged, and brilliantly acted. It’s only in town for two more days, so you’ll need to hurry to feel The Ghost’s Touch!
There are further performances at 2.30pm and 7.30pm on Wednesday (4th) and Thursday (5th). For tickets, call (029) 2087 8889 or visit the New Theatre website.
Review by Andrew Weltch
Entertainment South Wales review
Review: The Ghost’s Touch, New Theatre, Cardiff
Rumpus Theatre Company’s touring production of Wilkie Collins’ The Ghost’s Touch opened at Cardiff’s New Theatre on Tuesday evening.
Adapted by John Goodrum, the play is performed as a two-hander by actors Mark Homer and Terri Dwyer. The story begins in the first half of the nineteenth century when widower Stephen Rayburn (Mark Homer) visits Kensington Gardens with his daughter Lucy.
The pair chance upon a mysterious lady walking among the trees and crying. Mrs Zant’s (Terri Dwyer) behaviourgives Stephen cause for concern as he gets to know her.
Mark Homer has the dual role of not only playing Stephen Rayburn but also narrating the story, this is no easy feat, as Goodrum’s stage adaptation is particularly dialogue heavy. Homer seems perfectly at ease slipping into the role of a 19th century gentleman and a doting father, quickly drawing the audience into the plot.
Terri Dwyer combines charm, elegance and unpredictability as the mysterious Mrs Zant. Attired in a mourning dress and seemingly appearing from nowhere, Mrs Zant’s arrival is usually accompanied by a singular piano note while each scene she appears in builds further on her character indicating that not all is as it seems.
Both actors are really put to the test as they not only build a strong chemistry together on stage but also react to the figureless voices that accompany them in many scenes. These voices are provided to great effect by Millie Henson, Susan Earnshaw, John Goodrum, Karen Henson and Daniel Gilbrook and although you cannot see the characters, you quickly feel their presence, aided even further by Homer and Dwyer’s seeming connectivity with them as the scenes unfold.
A good imagination fuelled by Homer and Dwyer’s strong believability enables the audience to see the invisible characters through their minds eye and it becomes apparent as the play reaches a climatic crescendo of emotion towards the second half that there’s a very good reason why The Ghost’s Touch works as a two-hand performance.
The Ghost’s Touch is a cleverly written, brilliantly performed and well executed piece of theatrical storytelling. It keeps the audience guessing throughout and wonderfully resolves its plot neatly at the conclusion.
The Ghost’s Touch runs at Cardiff’s New Theatre until Thursday October 5, so if you love a good ghost story don’t miss out!
Read Andy Howells’ Interview with Terri Dwyer Part 1 and Part 2