Tall stories brings an incredibly charming and old school production of one of Oscar Wilde’s lesser known novellas, The Canterville Ghost, that perfectly embodies the spirit - pun not intended - of traditional music hall and vaudeville performers.
The production nails the mood and atmosphere of old school musical hall and vaudeville.
The Pleasance One has been transformed into a dimly lit and atmospheric musical hall, where four vaudevillians are ready to tell us the spooky and, at times, incredibly silly story of the haunting of Canterville Hall. As we watch the tale unfold, we find out more about the tragic history of the ghost in question, and the mysterious histories of the four performers at the same time.
One thing that must be said from the oft is how well the production nails the mood and atmosphere of old school musical hall and vaudeville. From the set design of fading red curtains, to the tinkling piano accompaniments, to the wonderfully subtle lighting design that gives the effect of the entire auditorium being lit by candle light. Everything combines to make us feel as if we’ve been transported back to the likes of Carnegie Hall in its heyday. This is accompanied by a wonderful set of performances by our four players, each of whom bring a brash confidence and almost pantomime sense of comic physicality that instantly endears them to us.
Our hosts abely navigate the increasingly absurd plot, interspersing the narratives with their character’s own meta-theatrical performances of the character’s musical hall acts. What initially appeared to a gimmick with little connection to the main narrative of the production was weaved seamlessly into the later narrative of the piece and the play ends on a beautifully metatheatrical and touching note that really surprised me.
The one criticism I would have with the production is its odd tone. The promotional materials bill the show as being 'Wilde for adults', and yet for the most part the comic's almost cartoonish antics of the narrative seem perfect for a family friendly show. Yet, right in the middle of some of the acts curse words and sexual innuendo show up seemingly without warning which really jar with the otherwise established tone.
This small issue is not nearly enough to derail what is an otherwise stellar show, and I The Canterville Ghost a show to see this Fringe.