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Different Ghosts

Gary Stevens

Photo: Corinne Turner

The six performers are dressed in different period costumes. They are provisional and ad hoc outfits. The historical period suggested by the costume is loosely adopted by the performers as it might be in a game rather than a play.

Performed by Heather Ackroyd, Brian Lipson, Miranda Payne, Jan Pearson, Joe Staines and Gary Stevens
Design in collaboration with Cornelia Parker
Lighting Beth Hardisty

A ‘Victorian’ couple is disturbed by a ‘Georgian’ couple who ignore them to the extent that at they sit on top of them. What appears to be a seventeenth century artisan shoemaker ignores everybody and interrupts everything. She sets up a table with shoe-lasts and begins to stretch leather, as the others look on. The sixth performer has no period costume and he begins by assisting the others, but as all performers ignore him, he increasingly interferes in their business and sabotages their action. Part of the game is slowly revealed: they can only see their contemporaries or characters from their past.

The stage is used as the site of conflicting interiors from different periods. The performers have their own period furniture, which they bring on with them as part of the action. They often collide with the others and jostle to occupy the same space.

The show creates the effect of an animated ornament. The characters do not have a fully formed psychology. Instead of an unfolding story, the representation itself becomes the source of fascination. Disparate objects are brought together to form a model of the characters. The table-tops become islands where states of mind are played out and externalised.

ICA Theatre, London, 1987; Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh; ICA Theatre, London; Powerhouse, Trent Polytechnic, Nottingham; Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff; South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell; Pegasus Theatre, Oxford; Green Rooms, Manchester; Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal

“intoxicating originality… visually inspired theatre that can challenge the mind as powerfully as the eye. Spun through all this are luminous reflections on memory, how objects change their meaning, the slipperiness of perception… But what needs stressing is the intellectual slapstick, the sheer fun of this show.”

The Listener

“a unique and thoroughly enjoyable show with a wicked sense of fun that… is like a breath of fresh air.”

The Guardian

“a table being laid for supper becomes a human chain of cutlery which in turn metamorphoses into dinky toys and model houses; when one attempts to create an object out of misfitting pieces the others all join in, creating further chaos, and end by stamping the pieces to smithereens as if they were deadly insects rather than inanimate objects… Different Ghosts is like a detective story… for all its droll humour and theatrical jokes Stevens’s piece is, like Ibsen’s Ghosts always hovering on the edge of tragedy and poetic symbolism.”

City Limits

“Panic gives rise to beauty.”

The Times
Photo: Corinne Turner