A Gig for Ghosts. Is it a play? Is it a musical? Well, it has songs, but they don’t really function as you’d expect them to in a musical, so let’s call it a play with songs.
That hardly matters, really, as the emotional content of this wonderfully unexpected little gem of a show is the blisteringly funny, and tragically moving love story played out against a backdrop of loneliness in the big city, from a cast of three women at the top of their performing game.
Usually I’d be reticent about giving out plot details, but in this case, as the whole synopsis is laid out in the rather oddly titled ‘Care Pack’ – essentially an online programme with some links to organisations allied to the issues dealt with in the script – I’ll share them with you.
Lily (Rori Hawthorn), is a sweet and innocent Scot (the actress herself grew up on the Isle of Skye) who comes to London looking for love and a better life, leaving behind her family – principally her Auntie Gina (Liz Kitchen) – and enrols in a temping agency.
Meanwhile, Amy (Hanora Kamen), works in social services where her job is to clear up the mess people leave when they die alone. Not people with friends and family who die in bed and are discovered by their loved ones and neighbours. No, people who literally die with no one to discover them until their corpses turn from being a sad passing to a health hazard…
With a certain inevitability Lily is sent by her temping agency to work in the building where Amy is, and they meet and Lily falls helplessly in love.
All the while we discover more about Lily’s family, and her love of music. A love which starts to rub off onto Amy.
The relationship blossoms, but Amy feels stifled and wants to make new friends to the detriment of their relationship; She wants more ‘space’ and the two take a break. A break which sees the tragic (but very funny) death of Lily.
As Lily has no family guess who gets called in to clear up the mess…
Amy has not only to deal with the immediate task-in-hand of dealing with the wreckage of her former lover’s life, but also the grief of the loss she has to confront. She rather goes off the rails and, although it isn’t stated, a lifetime of therapy surely awaits.
An inevitable funeral happens when Auntie Gina finally meets Amy, and the world returns to normality, lessons are learnt, etc.
What can I say? I laughed, I cried, I felt put through the wringer. I had a great theatrical experience as an audience member.
Overall there is a lightness of touch about the direction that means that even this very dark tale comes across as life-affirming, so all credit to director, Ria Parry.
This is an actor musician piece (music by Becky CJ) and all credit to the cast who not only have perfect timing, but great musicianship.
I’m personally not wholeheartedly convinced by the preponderance of music in the folk idiom – it’s charming when Lily sings in some of the quieter, more reflective numbers, but others – for example the opening number – are of the foot-stomping-you-will-join-in-and-enjoy-this-if-it-kills-us variety which really aren’t my cup of tea.
In the end that doesn’t matter; The play’s the thing, as Shakespeare wrote, and a more charming, more joyous, more moving account of a beautifully drawn relationship cut tragically short it would be hard to find outside of his works. I loved this play. Go see.
- A Play with Songs
- Book & Lyrics: Fran Busche
- Music: Becky CJ
- Starring: Rori Hawthorn, Hanora Kamen, Liz Kitchen
- Venue: Soho Theatre Upstairs
- Until 12th November 2022
- Running time: 90 minutes, no interval
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