Rumpus Theatre Company’s touring production of Wilkie Collins’ The Ghost’s Touch opened at Cardiff’s New Theatre on Tuesday evening.
Adapted by John Goodrum, the play is performed as a two-hander by actors Mark Homer and Terri Dwyer. The story begins in the first half of the nineteenth century when widower Stephen Rayburn (Mark Homer) visits Kensington Gardens with his daughter Lucy.
The pair chance upon a mysterious lady walking among the trees and crying. Mrs Zant’s (Terri Dwyer) behaviourgives Stephen cause for concern as he gets to know her.
Mark Homer has the dual role of not only playing Stephen Rayburn but also narrating the story, this is no easy feat, as Goodrum’s stage adaptation is particularly dialogue heavy. Homer seems perfectly at ease slipping into the role of a 19th century gentleman and a doting father, quickly drawing the audience into the plot.
Terri Dwyer combines charm, elegance and unpredictability as the mysterious Mrs Zant. Attired in a mourning dress and seemingly appearing from nowhere, Mrs Zant’s arrival is usually accompanied by a singular piano note while each scene she appears in builds further on her character indicating that not all is as it seems.
Both actors are really put to the test as they not only build a strong chemistry together on stage but also react to the figureless voices that accompany them in many scenes. These voices are provided to great effect by Millie Henson, Susan Earnshaw, John Goodrum, Karen Henson and Daniel Gilbrook and although you cannot see the characters, you quickly feel their presence, aided even further by Homer and Dwyer’s seeming connectivity with them as the scenes unfold.
A good imagination fuelled by Homer and Dwyer’s strong believability enables the audience to see the invisible characters through their minds eye and it becomes apparent as the play reaches a climatic crescendo of emotion towards the second half that there’s a very good reason why The Ghost’s Touch works as a two-hand performance.
The Ghost’s Touch is a cleverly written, brilliantly performed and well executed piece of theatrical storytelling. It keeps the audience guessing throughout and wonderfully resolves its plot neatly at the conclusion.