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Whisper House review at the Other Palace, London – ‘intense and thrilling chamber musical’

Simon Bailey, Fisher Costello Rose and Niamh Cusack in Whisper House at the Other Palace, London Simon Bailey, Fisher Costello Rose and Niamh Perry in Whisper House at the Other Palace, London. Photo: Johan Persson
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The Other Palace is quickly establishing itself as a home for the development and promotion of challenging new musical theatre. Now it boldly provides a platform for the European premiere of chamber musical, Whisper House.

This darkly riveting new production of a piece developed in the US in 2009, is a fantastic statement of the theatre’s intentions. It both stretches the form and gives voice to a top-flight cast of UK musical theatre performers and creatives.

Composer Duncan Sheik brought an authentic rock voice to Spring Awakening, transforming a 19th century classic of European theatre into a thrillingly contemporary rock opera. He also scored the stage version of Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho for the Almeida Theatre in 2013.

Whisper House, written between the two, does something even more original. It tells the compelling story of a young boy and the isolated aunt he is sent to live with in her lighthouse in Maine, against the backdrop of the Second World War.

There are ghosts, literal as well as figurative, secrets and betrayals. Sheik and his co-lyricist and book writer Kyle Jarrow knit then together in a rumbling, troubling collection of jagged melodies. Director Adam Lenson’s production charges it up with brooding atmosphere. Andrew Riley’s set is like looking down on a whirlpool, with a pit sunk into the middle of the stage in which much of the action takes place.

Simon Bailey and Niamh Perry prowl its perimeters as narrator-like ghosts with powerful vocals, while Dianne Pilkington as the aunt and Fisher Costello-Rose as her nephew (alternating with Stanley Jarvis) are brooding and haunting, much like the show.

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Dramatically intense and musically thrilling new chamber musical