REVIEW: Whisper House at The Other Palace- Catch it if you can

Posted on 27 April 2017

This is one new show I had been particularly excited for, although predominantly due to the fact my favourite leading lady Dianne Pilkington was starring. Though bias aside, something about Whisper House had me highly intrigued.

The story is set in and around an eerie lighthouse that stands on the remote East Coast of America at the height of World War II. It focuses on young Christopher (as played by Stanley Jarvis at this performance), who is sent to live with his Aunt Lily (Dianne Pilkington) and her mysterious Japanese housekeeper, Yasuhiro (Nicholas Goh), after his father’s plane is shot down and his mother is in special care.

However, it isn’t long before he starts to hear strange music seeping through the walls… but is his imagination getting the better of him, or are the ghosts warning of real danger? Soon the whispers become something louder.

Originally sourced from a concept album by Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening, American Psycho) along with the help of Kyle Jarrow (A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant) and Keith Powell. Together this team have created the perfect musical play, if there ever was such a thing.

The thing that came as most of a surprise to me, was the sheer relevance of the piece. As a show inspired by history and based in the past, it sadly fits in perfectly with the current times of Trump, prejudice, xenophobia and mental health issues. The last point being something that particularly touched me, and there was a scene towards the end between Aunt Lily and Christopher that went something along the lines of  "we'll be each others' lighthouses, and keep each other afloat... I won't give up if you don't" and that to me gave a very important message in reminding us that we can’t let whatever voices there may be win.

Held together by a cast of six, there’s no denying those involved are top quality talents. I’ve happened to see two of the cast members in different shows (Lipkin and Pilkington), and it just proved their versatility to me; my highlight was naturally Dianne Pilkington especially as her character in this is such a far cry from her previous role of Donna in Mamma Mia! However, Niamh Perry and Simon Bailey as the ghosts gave charmingly haunting performances and they definitely have powerhouse vocals that sail us through the story and I loved how Simon Lipkin seemed to play the cold and hard Sheriff with ease.

The music is at times mildly samey, though this is reflected in the song titles anyway; as there are parts I, II and II or reprises for a few of the songs. Despite that, it’s a charming, haunting, and chilling contemporary rock score and I loved it. Highlights for me were “Better To Be Dead” and “The Tale of Solomon Snell” (both of which are still swirling around my head!). Perry and Bailey beautifully perform the songs, and the few ensemble numbers are particularly powerful. It was great to see the seven-piece band on stage too.

The costumes remained the same throughout, yet they were representative of the time and gave each character a particular look; for me Niamh Perry’s ghostly look was the one that stood out. Although relatively simplistic, I thought the set was amazing and it worked perfectly. I loved the way the cast/characters moved around the stage, as it made it appear even more magical and helped keep the story flowing.

Overall, this is the perfect dark, thrilling, quirky and moving musical ghost story. I loved its originality, and it was exciting to see something new and different. There’s some great subtext and powerful messages – maybe we all need to learn to embrace the unknown a little more. Catch it if you can.