Ginger Hibiscus | Review of Philip Ridley's Ghost from a Perfect Place at the Arcola Theatre by Ginger Hibiscus
Review of Philip Ridley's Ghost from a Perfect Place at the Arcola Theatre by Ginger Hibiscus
Review of Philip Ridley's Ghost from a Perfect Place at the Arcola Theatre by Ginger Hibiscus
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16 Sep REVIEW: Ghost from a Perfect Place at the Arcola Theatre

What is a memory?

It’s repository for all those little mental videos you’ve made of everything you’ve ever seen, right? Of every experience, event, relationship…it’s like a cache, storing data to be retrieved at any moment you should demand it. Right? RIGHT?

Wrong. Before you click off, this isn’t a lecture on human cognition. But this is the kind of question you end up asking yourself, having seen Ghost from a Perfect Place….

When Travis Flood remembers his, “heyday,” he looks back fondly on a life of East End crowds parting to let him pass, on picking up his groceries, beverages and prostitutes gratis, and on strutting about the place in a spun silk suit with a single white lily. But how accurate is that recollection? Reading between the lines, it’s not too much of a leap of the imagination to believe that his “businessman,” might be our “gangster.” But even so, as misted memories emerge from the fog, we can never quite tell how much of the, “perfect place,” he and Mrs Sparks remembers is real, or even how much of the shocking truth anyone really wants to remember.

In Ghost from a Perfect Place, not only do we get the chance to explore the hazy line between what’s “real” and what’s not, but setting it in the context of gang culture is as relevant now as it was when the play first premiered 20 years ago. Almost every day we read news stories about gangs. Gangs taking over the capital, gangland killings, gang exploitation of underage girls, to name just a few. In maintaining it’s pertinency, the script has stood the test of time remarkably well, and appears even to have flourished. Although it seems to take a little bit of time to draw the audience in, before long we’re trapped; the abundance of exposition adds weapon after weapon to the arsenal of an already volatile Act II, which is embellished by details, like fireworks thrown onto a bonfire, giving little extra explosions to reward the more observant viewers.

A lot of these details are delivered by Torchie Sparks, played excellently by Sheila Reid. Carrying large sections of the play alone, her character is warm yet realistic, slightly world-beaten but accepting of her “lot” in life. In a superb acting performance, Reid gives us much of the dark humour with faultless timing and dead-pan delivery, which is continued by Miss Kerosene and Miss Sulphur (Rachel Redford and Scarlett Brookes). Particularly notable is Florence Hall as Rio, one of the most fascinating characters of the play. Deeply vulnerable but armoured to the hilt, this young woman is the vision of independence. Yet it’s an independence that seems to be built on…well…dependence. We spend a lot of time debating gender roles in our reviews, and this show gives the debate a whole new dimension. It’s not often that we’re able to talk about misandry, but here’s one of those rare occasions that it rears it’s ugly head and reminds us that hating someone by virtue of their gender is probably not very clever. Regardless of if that person is a man or a woman.

Casting the net wide to cover a whole host of contemporary issues is what really appeals to me about Ghost from a Perfect Place. Brutally iniquitous, it’s a thoroughly entertaining play, darkly funny from start to finish whilst unflinchingly presenting important issues in an impartial manner. Malcolm Rippeth‘s lighting design is simply superb in such a small space, and adds the little touches that are the difference between it being a good production and a great production. And I’m delighted to say, it’s the latter.

For tickets and information:

Star Rating

Ginger Hibiscus don’t like using stars as a headline; we think they’re too reductionist, and that decision-making based on stars misses the point of a review. Just as you wouldn’t judge a personality using a five-point scale, theatre is multi-dimensional. So have a read, and then look at the stars afterwards.
Okay, fine, but how many stars do you give it? Click here