Ghost Writer

Date 4th October 2019
Society Compton Little Theatre
Venue Compton Village Hall
Type of Production Comedy
Director Jane and Robin Matthews


Author: Pauline Surrey

This comedy ghost story plus who-dunnit by David Tristram dates from 2002, and was chosen as the subject of Compton Little Theatre’s lively annual dinner-drama event. The protagonists are four actors and a playwright, one of whom, Ruby, is dead. She appears to her husband, Edward, and informs him that rather than dying from a drinks/drugs overdose, she was murdered. Imploring him to find out who murdered her, she persists, to his considerable annoyance, and to the audience’s delight, in reappearing frequently throughout to, as she would think, help things along a bit, and as he would say, to cramp his style and complicate his attempts to solve the crime.

As ever, a particularly friendly welcome was extended, and in the case of CLT’s dinner/drama events, a superbly professional organisation of the evening, with excellent service, no time lags, and delicious fare! This time we had a 1970s' meal, as the play is set in the 1970s.

The fine set was very nostalgic for some of us – we were transported back to the 1970s with large, bold, patterned wallpaper, spider plants, crocheted bedspread, tea chests, the lot! A good townscape scene behind the French windows, which would open scarily to allow Ruby’s entrance. A marvellous cupboard full of Gordon’s gin bottles – every home should have one! – and various of these bottles were constantly in use. The piece de resistance, of course, was the typewriter, working away autonomously, quickly completing Edward’s new play while he slept! Of course, a ghost story must be every lighting person’s dream, and the lighting here was put to good use to add to the atmosphere.

Costumes were fun - elegant flares, and fitted shirts for Alec, scruffy 70s' T-Shirts and flared jeans for Edward, our despairing playwright. Flowery, flowing dresses for the terribly bashful Glenda. All added to our nostalgia.

The play opened to the dramatic view of a suicidal Edward pointing a gun to his head and quoting lines from Hamlet. Just about to pull the trigger, his intentions are thwarted by the bursting in of his friend and landlord Alec, who proceeds to inform him that the gun is only a stage prop. Edward, played with suitably ‘head in hands’ doom and gloom by Olly Clifford, retires to bed, only to receive a nocturnal visitation, the first of many, from his departed wife, Ruby, played with great indignation by Rachel Jenner. How dare people think she would have died so carelessly from a drinks/drugs overdose!

Alec has set Edward up with an unwelcome Blind Date with the hapless, shy and retiring Glenda (Mandy Scully), much to the fury of Ruby. JP Judson makes a fine Alec, appearing to be really concerned for Edward, whilst also being slightly frustrated by the latter’s ‘writer’s block’ phase and consequent lack of money to pay the rent. Alec is gay, but Judson doesn’t overdo the camp, playing it just right, in my opinion, and getting lots of good laughs. Some of the ‘gay’ jokes though do seem rather out of date now in 2019 (the play dates from 2002), and there were rather a lot of them.

A plot is hatched for Edward to create a play recreating the fateful party at which Ruby was discovered dead, the cast being the same people as were present at said party, the aim being to reveal the murderer. This play is written overnight by ‘the ghost writer’ on Edward’s typewriter as he sleeps – excellent work, whichever technical wizard set this up!

The party guests arrive, so does Ruby, so does Glenda. The pace of action quickens, the jokes come thick and fast, the gin flows, (from the bottle – plenty of those in that cupboard!), Glenda and others get drunk, it all gets a bit chaotic. I think a murderer was found, I know a toupet was lost. The second part of the second half all passed by in a flash! A good fun evening.