Theatre in Wales

Plays and dance productions in Wales since 1982...

A Ghost in the Attic by Mark Ryan
First presented in 2006 by Spectacle Theatre
cast size:?
Touring to Schools & Community Venues - Autumn & Winter 2006
Joan doesn’t believe in ghosts.
After all, she is eleven years old and this is 1941.
The war is scarier than lying in bed listening to the mysterious footsteps in the attic, the creaking on the stairs and the doorknob slowly turning in the middle of the night…isn’t it?

   There is 1 review of Spectacle Theatre's A Ghost in the Attic in our database:
The characters fail to convince
A Ghost in the Attic by Mark Ryan
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On tour
This review first appeared in the Western Mail...

The setting for Spectacle Theatre’s latest play for schools and communities is familiar: a family home during World War Two with a young girl, 11-year old Joan, her mother, an attentive special constable…and a ghost in the attic.

And just who, or what, is this ghost ? After the show, most of the young people at Tonyrefail Welsh School (where I caught the performance) said they believed in ghosts – but playwrights tend not to, and in Mark Ryan’s taught script that ghost, we adults know, is going to be either a metaphor or a real person.

If it’s not real then we guess the “ghost” is a skeleton in the cupboard (to use another metaphor), a secret – as indeed it is, but actually it is a real person as well. Not too difficult to suspect that it is the soldier father, back from the war but in hiding because he has deserted.

The second layer of meaning isn’t one that will necessarily trouble the young audiences for whom this engaging play is made, but as in several of Ryan’s scripts for Spectacle Theatre it is always possible to find more sophisticated interpretations of his disarmingly simple stories: not only do we have a potentially Freudian repressed memory here but we have an absent father.

We have, too, the rather bizarre appearance of Charlie, the local special who has a banjolele and a soft spot for Mrs Matthews, an annoying but well-meaning presence who seems to be an ancestor of Rob Bryden, a self-deprecating outsider.

So we have an odd quartet: the enquiring daughter, the mother torn between her husband and the deception of lying for him, the soldier, who cannot resist seeing his daughter as she sleeps, the interloper who blunders into the intrigue. All packaged into a ghost story designed to raise issues about living in wartime and the effects on an ordinary family.

The problem with the show is that none of them are real characters and we really don’t find out enough about them to make them come alive. The acting (Enid Gruffudd, Carys Parry, Jack Reynolds and Adam Payne) is fine enough and Menna Price’s direction is fresh and almost expressionistic: the whole production is quite adult, not just in subject matter and subtext but in its emotional depth.

And at Tonyrefail at least, the set as adapted for the tour looks all wrong, and for some scenes especially the characters just cannot be see because they are so low. Angharad Roberts’s designs are usually a distinctive plus feature of Spectacle’s shows but here they disappoint.

There are some arresting moments in the production, however, with some effective descriptions of the horrors of war, notably the retreat from Dunkirk, and issues of identity, fidelity, honesty, bravery and so on are raised subtly and openly.
David Adams

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