3 stars Imagine if Amy Winehouse had been a classical music child protege. Imagine then, after this most gifted of musician's all too tragic and premature death by excess, that her doting dad built a shrine to her, in the form of some kind of monument, or museum in the room where she lived and died in order to keep her spirit alive. What then, if the said protege, cut down before her time twelve years earlier, decreed to haunt this monument in some way? This is pretty much the scenario in Alan Ayckbourn's mid 1990s crack at replicating the success of The Woman in Black, the spooky runaway success which first opened in Ayckbourn's theatre in Scarborough. Here, grieving father Joe attempts to purge his little girl's memory with the nearest thing she had to a boyfriend alongside a suburban psychic who turns out to have known Julia better than most. What emerges in Andrew Hall's touring production originated at Colchester Mercury Theatre is a populist treatise on loss and how memories can be mythologised. The fact that this is dressed up as a ghost story that comes with its fair share of noises off is all well and good, even if it is a tad ordinary until the furniture throwing starts in the play's final furlong. Most of the time it's complete hokum, of course, as Duncan Preston, Joe McFadden and Richard O'Callaghan clearly realise. Most of the time it works, and only some clunky dialogue lets things down in a play that's about loss, exorcism and letting go. It won't be the death of Ayckbourn, but neither will it bring old-fashioned pot-boilers back to life.
The Herald, October 11th 2012 ends