‘Ghosting’ Is An Old Campfire Story With A Modern Twist: Review

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Ghosting, Irish rep

Irish Rep’s Ghosting is a supernatural play with horrifyingly grounded subjects such as family, grief, and the age-old urban vs. rural trope. Although we are in an undeniably modern time, I couldn’t help but notice the traditional charm of old ghost stories. Written by and starring Call The Midwife’s Anne O’Riordan and Jamie Beamish (known best for his appearances on Bridgerton and Derry Girls), this performance felt very much like a campfire tale from the 21st century.

Most of us know the experience of ‘ghosting’ all too well. You meet somebody (usually online), you get on great, maybe it could lead to something! And then all of a sudden… they fall off the face of the earth and cut off all forms of communication. Most of the time, it doesn’t amount to much more than a mild to moderate disappointment. But for our protagonist, Sí, her experience of ghosting is much more complicated.

After tragedy hits her family, Mark ghosts Sí. Soon after, she moves to London for anonymity. Five years later, she finds out through her sister that Mark has passed away. The only problem is that two nights before his death, Mark was standing in her bedroom, staring at her. Begrudgingly, she finds herself back in her hometown in Waterford. I won’t outline any more of the plot, but Ghosting is a supernatural play that tackles many serious subjects.

O’Riordan’s performance of Sí was captivating and a good fit for the character. She unpredictably alternated between sharing vulnerable insights and experiences to defensively mocking other characters. Beamish’s relatively brief performance was smooth and as airy as you would hope for a supernatural appearance. He showed no urgency to answer the many questions that were laid out in this play and maintained a calmness to counteract Sí’s overwhelmed panic. O’Riordan and Beamish decided to leave questions unanswered instead of explaining away the supernatural through PTSD or grief that some recent productions have tended to do.

Ghosting brilliantly captured the anonymity of an urban landscape compared to a small Irish village, and asked bigger questions about the societal issues baked into Sí’s world. In a world where everyone knows each other and each other’s business, it is only understandable that someone like Sí would run away to a big city like London. Shame, alienation, and stigma which can accompany otherwise harmless small-town gossip emerge at the forefront of the tragedy. It’s no wonder that Sí gives her family the cold shoulder and washes away the awkwardness with whisky and sex. In this way, the most haunting aspect of this tragic woman’s story is that it was partially avoidable.

However, the other components that make a performance work left much to be desired. The lighting served as a great reflection of Sí’s alienation upon returning to Waterford but the audience needs more. Much of the creepiness that the show aimed for could have been better achieved through more astute use of sound. We don’t need an overload on special effects (sometimes less is more) but music or even general ambience could have set a more convincing scene. Unfortunately, much of the spooky energy that a present audience might have felt was lost in digital translation. I could feel the untapped potential for more intricate camerawork to accompany O’Riordan’s performance on the part of Irish Repertory Theatre. The occasional close-up broke up the ‘proscenium arch’ wide shot that ate up most of the runtime. Ideally, we would see some digital attempt to accommodate the feeling of mystery and uncertainty. Instead, we got the air of total exposure in a supernatural play.

O’Riordan and Beamish’s co-writing definitely did this story justice. If only we could say the same for the technical considerations that could have enticed a digital audience as well. Overall, I very much appreciated the traditional feel of a ghost story in a 21st-century setting.

Words by Elizabeth Sorrell


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Image Credit: Irish Rep

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