REVIEW: The Ghost Ship, The Customs House, South Shields

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THE riparian setting and neighbouring old-world pubs perfectly set the scene for this year’s ghostly tale at The Customs House.

Joseph Conrad’s The Ghost Ship was brought to life by the Rumpus Theatre Company, whose annual offering of classic ghost story adaptations has become a firm part of the venue’s calendar.

Over the years, I’ve seen Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Bram Stoker and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle reworked by Rumpus into great pieces of drama.

Sadly, now I’m at the stage were I’ve been starting to think “this isn’t quite as good as they’ve done before”, but nevertheless was still more than worth the trip out on a cold evening.

The play is constructed similar to a Dickens’ collaborative collection, with each of the three characters telling their own eerie and woeful stories of cursed ships, tragic love and human suffering

Despite promises to the contrary, my spine remained distinctly unchilled during the first part of the production.

But the suspense and eeriness built after the interval as both dialogue, direction and effects moved the audience closer to the edge of their seats.

Amanda Howard, who plays female protagonist Beatrice as well as acting as choreographer and playing other smaller parts, is something of a Rumpus veteran and managed admirably here, though perhaps with a slightly odd accent.

Ed Hartland as fiance Jo and James Folan as father Conrad, also gave strong performances to bring the story to life.

Some Rumpus productions I have seen in the past have managed with just one actor, so the three-strong cast of The Ghost Ship is something of a luxury for the company.

Doubling up is still needed, however, which is cleverly done to maintain the suspension of disbelief.

Ross Robertson