Loosely based on the 1935 Rene Clair film, The Ghost Goes West, The Sunshine Ghost from Richard Ferguson (the pen name of conductor and RCS guest lecturer Richard Lewis) and Andy Cannon, (founder of Wee Stories Theatre for Children) is a work in progress, a co-production between Scottish Theatre Producers and Edinburgh’s Festival and King’s Theatres. The cast of six developing the work as they tour Scotland.
It’s 1958 and love-struck US billionaire, Glen Duval buys a Scottish castle and ships it across the Atlantic for his fiancée, Hollywood astrologer Astrobeth, only to discover that the castle’s ghost refuses to be parted from his ancestral home. Mayhem ensues between Ranald the ghost, Duval’s archaeologist daughter and her soon-to-be-step-mother, including curses, ship-wrecks, a séance, a swipe at Donald Trump, and a Scottish history lesson on Bonnie Prince Charlie, via Prestonpans to the battle of Culloden!
While a work in progress, it runs at a very fully formed two and a half hours. The problem is there are just too many songs, many of them merely filler. There are no costume or set changes to cover and a fair number of them fail to advance the plot in any way. That’s not to say that they are unpleasant or unentertaining, they’re not. Most are evocative of those black and white Saturday afternoon movie musicals of the 40s and 50s, a bit cha-cha-cha and samba-like, there even seems to be a new genre invented – 1950s rap! There’s also an under the sea parody with some fabulously funny lyrics. We could however be doing with a few less songs, a greater variety of musical styles and the story moving at a faster pace.
There’s huge scope for comedy in the story and with the characters. There are some great comedic moments, especially when pianist (and composer) Richard Ferguson gets his chance to shine as the Library of Congress librarian – with comic timing like that he’s woefully underused behind the piano. It’s great fun as it is but the whole thing would be elevated if it tipped even further towards comedy.
The performances are universally solid and the set and props as they are – are cleverly utilised. It’s easy to see how this could be scaled up to a full-blown touring musical – with the rolling hills of Scotland and the castle looming in the moonlight, it could be a tartan shortbread tin of nostalgia.
With shades of The Ghost and Mrs Muir and Blithe Spirit, this has HUGE potential: it just needs a few less songs, more musical variety and more comedy and it could easily be a winner.
Production images: Eoin Carey