Such was the resonance of this 90-minute piece that I found myself awake at 3 am the morning after, playing and hearing the eerie lighthouse, with its gentle waves and of course the whispers themselves, over and over in mind. Much must be made of the effect that a thrillingly, hauntingly good piece of work has. The plot of Whisper House is not extraordinary by any stretch of the imagination, but what makes this play what it is, is the voices. Indeed, when you can't see a ghost but can hear it, how do you portray it? Ask Simon Bailey et al. to do a turn.
I left The Other Palace, another jewel in Andrew Lloyd Webber's crown, feeling unsettled. I have recently seen Simon Bailey in Jersey Boys and was interested to see his take on this much darker, smaller and intimate slice of theatre. Playing alongside Niamh Perry the two voices entwined showed to the best of their advantage, the smooth and dulcet tones that Bailey possesses with Perry's honeyed tones combined with her 'other worldly' ethereal presence, reminiscent of a young Christine Daae. She has an intense stare about her and the ability to act unflinchingly.
Simon Lipkin excels in his role as the Sheriff, he smokes a cigarette in the manner of a reckless James Dean. Diane Pilkington is the Aunt that young Christopher is sent to stay with and the flimsy storyline continues from there. However, it has a strand running through it which is relevant in the current times and makes for uncomfortable viewing but nonetheless reminiscent of recent times. I am hesitant to give too much away, but it is still very relatable including amongst other things, the theme of xenophobia.
However, what made for excellent viewing was the staging and setting. On the night I attended, the audience were little more than 100 strong, in an intimate theatre and this added to the experience. It was chillingly cold – to the point that I didn’t remove my coat for the entire run. The interval isn’t perhaps necessary, I think it broke the captivating spell and ambience. Alongside floating teacups and suspended cigarettes, the backdrop projected onto the lighthouse wall is where the magic really takes place. That, combined with the vocals, make this one to travel out of the West End to see, if you can.
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