New Wimbledon Theatre, The Broadway, Wimbledon, London SW19 1QG
This new production from the English National Ballet is loosely based on Oscar Wilde’s ghost story for children. As you would expect from the master wit, the tale is brilliantly comic and cleverly plotted; and now hilariously brought to life on stage. It tells the tale of the Otis family, “vulgar” Americans, who come to live in the old, haunted English house Canterville Chase. A series of slapstick haunting and cruel tricks ensues: but who will end up the most frightened: the Otis family or the ghost?
This amusing tale, successfully adapted for stage with this appealing show, is the ideal introduction to the ballet for children. It is perfectly pitched, never losing sight of its intended audience whilst providing theatrical magic for the whole family. There were plenty of young children in the audience who were enthralled by the spectacular visuals on stage from the incredible combination of movement, costume and music; and amused by the antics of the characters, especially the mischievous young twins and the ghost. There is sufficient fun in the production and dazzling skill in the performances to even keep the adults entertained too!
Perfectly complementing the on-stage action is the accompanying narration, supposedly a device to aid children’s understanding of the plot. Voiced by Tom Baker, the narrator provides huge enjoyment for adults too. Baker’s barmy and captivating delivery makes great use of the narration device and leaves the whole audience in the spell of a master storyteller. The ghoulish and absurd story clearly appeals to Baker’s self-confessed love of the comically macabre, and his pre-recorded delivery is a joy to experience.
The musical accompaniment supports the story well, but is noticeably more engaging and varied during the slower love scenes, which would appear to be the composer’s strength. The score for the frenetically paced comedy scenes is a little repetitive and at times bland, although the orchestra itself was faultless throughout the evening. This did not hamper the enjoyment of the story that does not require the magnificence and scope of a Tchaikovsky score in order to fully appreciate the accompanying action.
Overall this production is a magnificent effort by cast and crew alike. The sumptuous costumes and grand set design lend a coherent and stunning look and feel to the performance that complemented the choreography and direction. As evidenced from the families in the audience, this production is a great night out for all ages, and should enjoy a successful and much-loved run.
'The Canterville Ghost' runs from 25th May to 3rd June 2006