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« THE CAT RESCUERS | Main | PALM BEACH »
Sunday
Jun092019

GHOST LIGHT

Stars: Cary Elwes, Shannyn Sossamon, Danielle Campbell, Carol Kane, Roger Bart, Tom Riley, Scott Adsit, Caroline Portu and Steve Tom.
Writers: John Stimpson and Geoffery Taylor.
Director: John Stimpson

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½

The curse of The Scottish Play gets a big screen treatment that one senses William Shakespeare's 16th century fans would have appreciated in the enjoyably dark-hearted romp, Ghost Light. In equal measure a love letter to The Bard, a satirical skewering of theatrical tropes and a cracking Twilight Zone episode, director John Stimpson and co-writer Geoffery Taylor display a clear affection for the stock troupe dynamics of their ensemble cast, but it is when the madness takes hold and the daggers appear that something delightfully wicked this way comes.

Fitting his entire troupe on a bus bound for a barnyard theatre in Massachusetts, increasing jaded director Henry (the wonderful Roger Bart) finds himself more often a caretaker of egos and eccentricities, having overseen his cast and meagre crew for 50 semi-pro stagings of Macbeth. With AD Archie (Scott Adsit) by his side, Henry must contend with the over-emoting tendencies of leading man Alex (Cary Elwes); the increasingly bitter ambitions of snooty Brit import Thomas (Tom Riley); and, Alex’s wife, Thomas’ lover and the production’s Lady Macbeth, Liz (Shannyn Sossamon).

When Thomas defies the legendary superstition of live theatre and brazenly yells the play’s name on stage in a petulant fit, mishaps and mischief begin to befall the production. Some are delightfully daffy; a blow to Alex’s forehead somehow restores his talent (Elwes renders a masterful version of the “Is this a dagger…” monologue), ensuring Thomas’ transition to leading man won’t happen on this staging. Others, infinitely more sinister; Thomas begins seeing apparitions in his quarters, while Liz, true to her stage character, can’t cleanse her hands of her husband’s blood.

While the framework for his narrative is pure Bard, Stimpson enjoys taking aim at such live theatre clichés as stock company pretension, bedroom farce romps, ‘manor house’ mysteries and, of course, good ol’ fashioned ghost stories. A support cast that includes established pros Carol Kane and Steve Tom and relative newbies Caroline Portu and Danielle Campbell play their parts to perfection, injecting what may have been one-note side players with heart and humour.

As Ghost Light careens with an understated glee to its full embrace of The Curse’s supernatural elements, the balancing act that Stimpson achieves with his sure directorial hand becomes more evident. Finding plenteous joys in Shakespeare’s most bloody of tragedies while respecting the source material is no small feat; those that look upon this picture will reflect without regret, ‘What’s done, is done.’

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