Friday, 12 October 2012

Haunting Julia

Kings Theatre, Edinburgh
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

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