WITH the dark nights and cold weather drawing in, the cobbled streets surrounding the Custom’s House make the perfect setting for a traditional ghostly tale.
The Rumpus Theatre Company has become a regular autumn/winter fixture at the South Shields theatre, bringing alive eerie Victorian tales from the likes of Charles Dickens, Bram Stoker and Wilkie Collins.
This year it was the latter’s turn to get the Rumpus treatment with The Ghost’s Touch, reworked for the stage by John Goodrum and based on Collins’ short story Mrs Zant and the Ghost.
The production is carried predominantly by a well-performed monologue from widower Stephen Rayburn, played by Nicholas Gilbrook, initially joined on stage only by the disembodied voice of his daughter, Lucy, and dog Tommy.
The only other cast member is Amanda Howard, playing the mysterious Mrs Zant, with all the other parts being performed in voice alone.
This gives the production an eerie feel, immediately drawing in the audience into a ghostly mystery tale which keeps them guessing to the end.
Lighting is used to clever effect, transforming the simple set from a summer’s day in Kensington Gardens to a forboding dentist’s premises and a stormy seaside town.
Keith Tuttle’s lighting design also adds impact to scenes featuring Mrs Zant, making several teenagers in the stalls jump with shock as she appears lit in brilliant white in the opening scene.
Overall, however, I found The Ghost’s Touch a little disappointing compared to Rumpus’s previous productions, lacking oomph in parts and with some sections allowing the audience to nod-off a little.
The plot itself is punctuated with the occasional hole, and while being billed as “a web of lust and revenge” I’m afraid the story was somewhat lacking in the former and completely bereft of the latter.
Nonetheless, this was a worthy piece of theatre from a small company which has a track-record of rivalling the big boys.
As I’ve said before, it is small productions like this which are the true gems of theatre and in my opinion, much better value for money than much of the soulless nonsense which demands more than double the ticket price at bigger venues.
I’m already looking forward to what Rumpus comes up with for next year.