Threatre: Wilde's wit falls victim to a singing spectre

The Canterville Ghost, Northcott Theatre, Exeter

OSCAR WILDE'S whimsical short story has survived a film, with Charles Laughton mugging for dear life, but even when filled out with the telling of Wilde's children stories, The Happy Price, there is hardly enough substance for a musical. This is not the Wilde of the scathing wit. Just light humour with a touch of sentiment.

It may have been the presence of musicians in the orchestra pit, or the baronial hall set, but I had the impression that we were in for a 1920's style musical comedy. The Canterville Ghost proves to be a bit more substantial than that; although the songs seem to spring out of nowhere in the musical comedy tradition.

A story of how an American family invade a stately home dates from the time when Americans wore check suits and big cigars, made vast fortunes from the invention of gadgets, and were loud and brash and supremely insensitive to British traditions and culture. Hiram Otis and Lucretia Otis, with their brattish boy twins and deep feeling young daughter, help to release The Canterville Ghost from 400 years of frightening molecules. The Otis tribe exorcise the ghost by simply not believing in him. According to an ancient rhyme the ghost can only be released from his purgatory by a young girl's tears. Step forward Virginia, the youngest Otis, imbued with a strong streak of sentimentally for helpless aberrations. There are some good songs. "A Ray of Light", sung by ghost Ron Moody, has the endearing battle through optimism of a popular tear-stained ballet, and Charles Miller's music has a lyrical lilt which lasts throughout. Peter Quilter's script sticks slavishly to the original. Only his song lyrics add anything new. The Canterville Ghost has some period charm but is essentially light-weight. There are times when Ron Moody's predicament engages the audience. His considerable stage presence carries the show beyond its expectations. The Otis family, Steven Wickham, Corinna Powlasand, the twins Gavin Eaton and Jamie Golding, and Sheli Andrew as the catalyst juvenile go through their routines efficiently. Nicola Sloane, the doomy house-keeper, has a few numbers in the Ivor Novello mould.

The production, by Brian De Savo, is full of thumps and flashes and a couple of stage illusions - the big finish when the Ghost ascends a staircase into the clouds sent the audience away happy.

The Canterville Ghost runs until the 23rd May.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

    £26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

    Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

    £24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

    £22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions