Old Fitzroy Theatre
Sydney Ghost Stories
25 November – 19 December 2009
On paper, Sydney Ghost Stories looks great: six original short plays by talented Sydney writers about ghostly experiences and hauntings around the city. The idea clearly struck a chord with audiences: the Old Fitz was packed with enthusiastic punters and the mood was electric. The introduction is perfect – an actor welcomes us to the space and then begins to describe some of the Old Fitz’s very own ghosts. It’s fun, tense and exhilarating. Then the plays proper begin, and the mood begins to ebb and drain. So what went wrong?
My guess is that the companies (Picture This Productions and Stories Like These) just ran out of time. According to the program, the idea was hatched in mid-2009, effectively ruling out time for the scripts to be edited and dramaturged. As a result, the plays seem rushed and the actors struggle with unclear scenarios and awkward dialogue.
Some, like Lachlan Philpott‘s Ibis, pack too many ideas into their short length, while others, like Tobsha Learner‘s Black Wedding, drag one or two good ideas far past the point of tedium. Toby Schmitz‘s The Point of the Story contained some good lines but was seeking some kind of narrative that would have justified it, while Verity Laughton‘s Ghostie drove an interesting setup into the ground with its bizarre and unsatisfying conclusion. The incoherent metatextual rambling of Stephen Sewell‘s Act 2 was simply lazy, as if it had been written in an evening and then never returned to.
The exception was Rebecca Clarke‘s Escape Pod, a taut, tightly-contained family drama that mixed domestic violence issues with a sinister supernatural thread. The company clearly relished getting their teeth into the densely packed work, which resonated with me long after the evening was over.