Ghost Light


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Ghost Light
"There's an element of luvvieness here that will annoy some viewers but as a whole, the play exhibits a dry wit that keeps it from getting too sentimental."

"Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble" - they're some of the best-known words in all Shakespeare's work and, to modern minds, some of the silliest. in their time, however, the words of Macbeth's witches were taken rather more seriously, not least because they were believed to be real. As a result, it's said, the play war cursed. The superstition lingers to this day, with actors hesitating to say the word 'Macbeth' outside the context of the play itself unless... what, exactly? it's a bit like the ghost light which tradition says must be kept burning on the stage. if it goes out, well, we'll all be in the dark.

John Stimpson's spirited horror comedy revolves around a troupe of actors preparing to perform what is - for safety's sake - referred to as 'the Scottish play'. Even before it comes to curses, they have a lot to contend with. Alex (Cary Elwes) is the show's leading man but not remotely up to the job, an ex-soap opera star who clings to his former onscreen personality in the bedroom, much to the chagrin of wife Liz Beth (Shannyn Sossamon), who is distracting herself by fooling around with jealous younger actor Tom (Tom Riley). Two of the other actors are doing a poor job of trying to be just friends after a break-up and the play's directors are going spare trying to keep everyone's performance in line, not least that of scene-stealing diva Madeline (Carol Kane), whose third witch is, in her mind, the play's most important character. Then Tom, in a mood of brash disrespect, shouts out the forbidden name, and they have the supernatural to contend with as well.

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Despite the ghostly forces at work - and the arrival of a strange young woman who just might be a witch herself - the main focus of the story is more down to Earth. Down under the earth is where Liz Beth would prefer to put her husband and, like the character she plays onstage, she persistently beseeches the man who loves her to do deeds most foul. Alex, however, simply refuses to die, never guessing the pair's intent. Elwes has always done a fine Douglas Fairbanks impression and here he shifts it into bumbling middle aged fall guy mode with considerable charm. The ensemble cast works well together though Kane, of course, blows everybody else offscreen whenever she's given half a chance.

There's an element of luvvieness here that will annoy some viewers but as a whole, the play exhibits a dry wit that keeps it from getting too sentimental. Its tendencies to melodrama are mostly kept in check and the horror element is on the lighter side so it shouldn't prove too disturbing for more delicate viewers. Towards the end, the focus shifts more towards the supernatural and it loses some of its verve, but there are enough entertaining characters, sly theatrical jokes and exuberant performances to make it an entertaining watch throughout.

Reviewed on: 15 Jun 2019
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A theatre troupe finds itself in trouble after an actor disregards the warnings associated with performing Macbeth.

Director: John Stimpson

Writer: John Stimpson, Geoffrey Taylor

Starring: Cary Elwes, Shannyn Sossamon, Danielle Campbell, Carol Kane, Roger Bart

Year: 2018

Runtime: 102 minutes

Country: US


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