Oscar Wilde’s gothic satire The Canterville Ghost gets a breezy, family-friendly adaptation from author Anthony Weigh, with the macabre meditations on mortality toned down and the humour brought to the fore. Weigh retains much of Wilde’s velvety, verbose language, which occasionally feels underserved by a production that rattles through the story of an American family moving into a haunted English manor house, their rational practicality quickly exorcising the troubled spirit that dwells there.
Director Justin Audibert sets up a brash, larger than life tone, slipping in simple but striking magical effects and quirky advertisements for the various modern inventions the new occupants use to overcome the old house’s supernatural stuffiness.
The cast tackle it with plenty of energy, quickly making their characters distinct, although a tendency to fall back on comedic squeals and bellowing ensures there’s not much nuance to be found. Safiyya Ingar stands out as strong-willed daughter Virginia, tough but compassionate, more concerned with easing a spectre’s suffering than escaping its clutches. Paul McEwan steals the show as second-rate spirit Sir Simon, a wailing, theatrical trickster desperate to find peace. Meanwhile, Annie Fitzmaurice frames the action, narrating as both a suave Oscar Wilde, and a severe, doom-and-gloom housekeeper.
Prema Mehta’s lighting design pierces a thick fog of haze with faint spotlights, while startling, electric blue lightning flashes accompany the continual crashes of thunder. As Sir Simon finally finds forgiveness, he vanishes behind a swelling curtain of warm orange light which dispels the gloom.