It’s impressive to give the story of the world’s most famous shipwreck a new twist. Ron Hutchinson’s solid play speculates that the iceberg didn’t exist and creates a conspiracy theory involving corrupt bankers and businessmen. This is a topical spin on fake news being as old as newspapers themselves but, above all, Ghosts of the Titanic is a cracking thriller.
There are two newshounds here – an ambulance-chasing reporter and his hard-nosed editor. The characters are written well and superbly performed by John Hopkins and Lizzy McInnerny. The cynicism around the making of the news is thought-provoking. Do we really believe the ship’s band played on as death approached?
The power of words and narrative continues as we encounter representatives of the law (well, a Pinkerton private eye) and the medical profession (it’s a good plot twist, so I’ll avoid details). Both characters, performed capably by Sarah Ridgeway and Clive Brill, have comic touches. The humour shows Hutchinson’s skills but, to my taste, dampens tension.
Walking with the dead
Even when there are exaggerated moments, all the characters are entertaining. But, aware that conspiracies can become tiresome, flimsy affairs, Hutchinson makes sure there’s strong emotion powering the show. We follow a grieving heroine – a big part for Genevieve Gaunt, who is seldom off stage and always captures attention. And we get our information from an engineer (an impassioned performance from Fergal McElherron).
Both the grief this tragedy engendered and its status as a defining event in history are handled well. There is a sense of responsibility that saves sensational moments from becoming disrespectful. Gaunt’s sensitive yet determined character wobbles, but is ultimately convincing. The strong plot moves along expertly, with Eoin O’Callaghan’s firm direction showing its strength in making flashback scenes clear. In short, the story is good and the story telling is expert.
A big hit back in 1949, this
psychological drama by Lesley Storm has been revived by director Clive Brill.
It’s a quality production and the writing of a high standard. But there’s no
escaping that this is a period piece with ideas trapped in their own time.
When a well-off housewife becomes a petty thief a “mind specialist” is called in to help with her legal defence. As a whydunit, it’s an effective premise, if a little simple, and Sharp gives us a close study of family friction that’s nicely delivered by Jack Staddon and Eva Feiler as the son and daughter. It turns out the former is “locked together emotionally” with his mother, a position both were driven to by a jealous patriarch. As the wicked father figure, Ian Kelly has a good go, but the “frightening presence” he is supposed to have cast over wife and son isn’t convincing – he is too sorry a figure to have caused much tension.
There’s a lot of RP accents and stiff
upper lips (all delivered well) that raise smiles surely not intended by Storm.
But that isn’t the big problem. The encounters between our nouveau klepto
Alicia and her doctor, handled spryly enough by Nicholas Murchie, are focal
points that prove myopic. A diagnosis of empty-nest syndrome is arrived at
ridiculously quickly. Psychiatrists as all-seeing saviours may have been novel
for Storm’s audience, but the idea just seems odd nowadays. A further twist,
motivated by Alicia’s will to sacrifice herself for her family, comes as no
surprise. It’s not so much an upper-middle-class obsession with privacy as the doctor’s
admiration of such that seems silly.
Unless you’re particularly interested
in post-war theatre Black Chiffon
only has one big attraction: a star turn from Abigail Cruttenden in the lead
role. She gives Alicia a dignity that’s believable and makes you care about the
character. Better still, she is wonderfully natural; understated yet
emotionally intense, with period touches kept under control. There are tricks
here that many a performer in an historical drama could learn from and,
although it’s a close call, Cruttenden makes the show worth seeing.