Do you believe in ghosts? Most people would say no. Yet when you read ghost stories or watch horror films, you have that uneasy feeling, as if someone has been watching you but you can’t quite explain it. Ultimately, you become more open-minded, so to say. However, those who do believe in ghosts, try to attend many medium sessions to make contact with those they lost.
Carrie Clairvoyant (Claudette Baker-Park) is a self confessed celebrity medium who makes such contact between ghosts and humans possible. It is her gift. Or just a very good knack for the niche in the market. During one performance, one of her phantom guests arrives in less than ethereal apparel and she simply loses herself. At that point many things happen at once. Totally confused Carrie is forced to enlist the help of her estranged sister Mary (Mary-Jo Hastie). Mary’s daughter, Jess (Alice Restrick) becomes very conflicted when faced with a nice young lad, knowing her mum would not only disapprove, but would also cast the devil incarnate away with her exorcism powers. At the same time, Dean (Jay Newton) faces his own battle of disbelief in coming back to life and falling in love with a girl who struggles to separate her feelings from what she was made to believe all her life.
Giving up the Ghost is a play exploring the limits of human beliefs or more precisely the boundaries people face and if they are able to either break them or always maintain their status quo. All the characters have a depth and complexity which are accentuated by the actors playing them. The relationship between Mary and Carrie is dynamic and both Mary-Jo and Claudette translate that conflicting energy into a gripping belief tag-of-war. Anna Blainey’s writing sketches out the background of this very constricting relationship and the actors fuel it professionally with vibrancy and their personal flair.
What I liked about Giving up the Ghost was the dark humour in the presence of the two young characters, Jess and Dean, who are influenced by Carrie’s and Mary’s points of view, but emerge as a couple of intriguing and strong counter-characters. Alice superbly plays this incredibly inquisitive and smart young girl alongside Jay who effectively captured the nature of a young, yet not exactly young, boy with the misunderstood personality of a youth rock star.
Giving up the Ghost questions good and evil in people and the constant human need for validation of their fears and beliefs. Also, it addresses the issue of the morality of giving people hope to get closure in their lives by means of séances, which are more for entertainment purposes than having any real and tangible consequence. Anna Blainey very skilfully depicted that whimsical and dilemmatic idea of pragmatism versus beliefs and how they might be understood by people in the context of mediumship and exorcism. Does it ultimately come to being just a business as any other one to provide a service for which there is a demand? Or maybe it’s just an evolution of human beliefs and their extent, where in the troubled world certain services might be acceptable as a remedy to counteract the reality.
Giving up the Ghost is funny and poignant. It’s simply great on many different levels – from a well written and well directed play, to brilliantly acted characters. The play was presented by Butterfly with a Bomb Productions on 21st and 22nd September 2014* at The Old Hairdressers, Renfield Lane Glasgow, which is a great venue for such a quirky play. The staging in the play was very simple and the props were minimal but expertly created by Philip Barratt, and the whole set was well planned and executed.
A good play is usually judged by the effect it has on its spectators. Well, Giving up the Ghost brought both lots of laughter and a secret tear here and there. Personally, I loved the humour, cynicism and the bittersweet language. I thoroughly enjoyed this second play from the Butterfly with a Bomb Productions and I look forward to seeing more from this team of talented writers and actors in the near future.
Giving up the Ghost (Butterfly with a Bomb Productions)
Written by: Anna Blainey
Directed by: Anna Blainey and Mary-Jo Hastie
Carrie Clairvoyant – Claudette Baker-Park
Mary – Mary-Jo Hastie
Dean – Jay Newton
Jess – Alice Restrick
Tech: Finn Townsley and Douglas Calder
Graphic design: Philip Barratt
*The performance which was reviewed was on 21st September 2014 at 19:30. Duration: 90 mins.
The pictures were taken by Duncan Holmes and are used with the permission from Butterfly with a Bomb Productions.