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   The Theatreguide.London Review


Night Of The Soul
The Pit Winter 2001-2

 David Farr's ghost story is a hauntingly lovely comic drama that will hold you under its spell as you watch it and linger in your memory afterwards. If it doesn't quite achieve all its philosophical and thematic ambitions, it is still a very pleasant interlude.

At its centre, naturally enough, is a ghost, a 14th-century woman doomed for her sins to haunt the place of her death, which is currently a personality-less ring road hotel, until she finds a human who can see and hear her. By helping that person through his or her spiritual crisis, she will earn her own way into heaven.

That is not as fey as it sounds, at least not in the hands of author-director Farr and actress Zoe Waites, who plays her with an attractively modern spunkiness. This ghost has made use of all her free time - she enjoys watching TV with the guests, has taught herself to use the hotel computer, and amuses herself by tidying the rooms better than the living staff.

It is in the guise of chambermaid that the human she has been waiting for first sees her, and there is considerable humour in her process of convincing him of her ghostly nature. He is a harried businessman heading for the funeral of the father from whom he had been estranged for years, and it is secrets about his past that the ghost must help him face.

That's about all the plot I'm going to tell you, except that both main characters' sins, when they're finally revealed, turn out to be fairly banal. But that disappointment aside, the journey to and beyond them is engrossing, right up to an ending that is as surprising as it is, with hindsight, inevitable.

Balancing Waites' alternately earnest and exasperated ghost is Tom Mannion's attractively complex portrayal of the man. I've always admired Mannion's ability to give line readings an unexpected but wholly realistic twist, and he repeatedly turns scenes which are essentially cliches (like the first time he realizes that someone else can't see Waites) into freshly comic or insightful moments.

There is a supporting cast, playing various family members, hotel staff and the like. But the play's focus is entirely on the central couple, whose charm as characters and whose portrayers' charm as actors - is what holds us and makes us want to believe, both in the play's fiction and its offered hope of spiritual redemption.

Gerald Berkowitz

 

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Review - Night of the Soul - RSC Pit 2002