Ghosts on a wire, 3 Stars

Ghosts on a wire
Union Theatre
21st Sep to 8th Oct 2023

“Ghosts On A Wire’, written and produced by Linda Wilkinson, will gets its world premiere  at the Union Theatre, Southwark, London SE1, as part of this year’s Totally Thames Festival, from 21 September and run to 8 October.

Mary Shelley’s prophesies in her book ‘Frankenstein’, the Modern Prometheus, came to fruition some hundred years after publication on the banks of the Thames at Blackfriars. Electricity, the source of her supernatural themes, became a true force of power in the world, a force as destructive as it was beneficial.

Ghosts on a Wire’ follows the development of the world’s largest coal powered electric plant, The Pioneer as it lit the houses and streets of the affluent North Bank of the Thames, whilst destroying the homes and working-class communities on the South. One woman, Octavia Hill, fought for the rights of the ordinary people of Southwark to have decent homes and clean air. Her story and that of our ghosts, recounts a tale of unworldly events, corruption, greed and resilience in the face of a Leviathan that was able to consume everything it encountered.

Ghosts On A Wire’, which uses spectacular back projection effects and photography, was commissioned by Southwark Council, who had previously commissioned  Linda Wilkinson to write ‘Albion in Flames’. Wilkinson is thrilled that the same creative team behind ‘Albion in Flames’, are back together again for ‘Ghosts On A Wire’.”

Review by Richard Lambert, 3 Stars

Ghosts on a wire is a clever title for this production. The wire relates to the London Electricity Company which is buying up working class properties in order to raise them to the ground to make way for their coal power station. With the promise to re-house the residents in better environments which include outdoor space there is a lot of resonance based on fact involved in the plot.

The Ghosts allow other historical figures to become part of this story. Faraday himself, the discoverer of the link that moving a magnet across a coil of wires caused ions to flow enabling electrical effects such as heating, muscle twitching and magnetic forces. His inclusion in this piece is interesting as he’s presented with the negative social impacts of his work rather than the benefits. The benefits are addressed privately by others, making the story rather compelling.

I did struggle a little with the cast over-enunciating the script. The director appears to have required a more laboured, over natural, delivery of the script. It’s a choice which possibly works better in theatre in education rather than a London audience. But perhaps TIE would also be a good outing for this story?

The video projections across the back wall add a lot to the production. Telegraphing locations and occasionally emphasising dramatical nuances. The video content tastefully created and the single projector well chosen for this wide-angled task.

The inclusion of the seance scenes possibly highlighted the period but felt a little too comedic to add to what could otherwise have been a more engaging production. I’d have accepted the ghosts interjections standing in their own right. There were also touches of gossip about the sexual preference of Octavia Hill that could maybe have been explored a little more.

The lighting was slick and correctly cued but did lack front light making it a challenge to see the facial expressions in several of the scenes.

Rounded off by a great set of period costumes this is a technically polished production.
(photo credit: Martin Butterworth)

Cast: Gerri Farrell as Octavia HillAndrew Fettes as William ShelferTimothy Harker as William BlakeAli Kemp as Sarah ShelferDeborah Klayman as Harriot YorkeTom Neill as Michael FaradayCreative team:Writer and Producer Linda WilkinsonDirector PK Taylor Sound Designer and Composer Jack Baxter Photographer and Graphic Design Martin ButterworthArtist Adrian Chappell Projection Design (Stagefright Films) Chris LinceCostumes Penn O’Gara

LISTINGS INFOGhosts on a Wire A play about, Love, Light and PowerA new play by Linda WilkinsonUnion TheatreOld Union Arches229 Union StreetLondonSE1 0LRSeptember 21 – October 8Monday-Saturday 19.30Matinees Saturdays 14.30

Ticket Prices (between £10-£25)Full Price £25Concessions £20Southwark Residents £15 (with proof)Box Office: 020 7261 9876 Media

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