Tag Archives: PK Taylor

Ghosts on a Wire

Ghosts on a Wire


Union Theatre

GHOSTS ON A WIRE at the Union Theatre



Ghosts on a Wire

“This new work is brimming with ideas and interesting historical characters”


This new play by Linda Wilkinson is performed in the pertinent space a stone’s throw away from the historical area whence the story comes. The building of an electricity power station on the south bank of the Thames in the 1880s was to transform the lives of Londoners: on the north bank they received light and power; on the south bank their homes were demolished, and the area was filled with heat, smoke, noise and foul air.

An ensemble of six, directed by PK Taylor, tell the story. Everyone takes on double roles and are generally proficient despite some overly side-on positioning. Coming to terms too with a rather wordy text, the actors will need a few more performances to achieve a better fluency. A sparsely set stage and a bare back wall provides sufficient ambience. With mostly subdued lighting throughout, the use of foot lights and stage up-lighting proves especially effective and atmospheric.

Three cigar-smoking, ale-quaffing gentlemen represent the developers revelling in the knowledge that the redevelopment of Southwark is a money-making evil. In the south bank pub, The Watermans Arms we meet William and Sarah Shelfer (Ali Kemp). They are delighted that their pub is to be the only remaining hostelry after the demolition of the area, a delight that turns into horror once they discover that the noise of the power station makes living and working impossible. Andrew Fettes excels in his two contrasting roles: as both Lyon Playfair MP with his top hat and Etonian articulation, and pub landlord Shelfer with his flat cap and estuary vowels.

Playfair, representing the London Electric Company hopes to bring Octavia Hill (Gerri Farrell), known campaigner for fair living conditions, to be part of the redevelopment plan. We hear some laborious backstory from Hill, rather ponderously delivered. Introducing lesbian overtones, she tells her companion Harriot (Deborah Klayman) of the double male betrayal by her father and by artist John Ruskin which all seems to carry little significance.

Before all of this, however, we see an opening scene from a previous generation and a metaphysical discussion between author Mary Shelley (Klayman), poet William Blake (Timothy Harker) and scientist Benjamin Franklin (Tom Neill). The three historical figures are the ghosts in the title, first overlooking the action, reflecting upon what they see, and then connecting directly with the future. There is a rather over-played séance scene – Mrs Cook (Farrell) gurning and shrieking – and philosophical debate between Blake and Hill.

The projection (Chris Lince) on the back wall is the star of the show. A central Faraday cage throws out electrical sparks, an indicator of the arrival of the ghosts. Scenes through a window, wall lights, maps of the area, and images of the working power station add to the success of the story telling, culminating in a magnificent St Paul’s Cathedral.

A six-part close harmony song that breaks the fourth wall, masquerading as a pub singalong, seems incongruous with all that has gone before.

This new work is brimming with ideas and interesting historical characters but lacks overall coherence. Perhaps there is room for more than one play here. Beyond Octavia Hill wanting a new electric cooker, and some observations that the lights on the north bank of the Thames look pretty, there is little suggestion that the move towards electricity is a positive one. But this is a Southwark story, and the bias is forgivable.




Reviewed on 26th September 2022

by Phillip Money

Photography by Martin Butterworth





Recently reviewed by Phillip:


The Wellspring | ★★★ | Royal & Derngate | March 2022
The Woods | ★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | March 2022
I Know I Know I Know | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | April 2022
The Homecoming | ★★★★★ | Cambridge Arts Theatre | April 2022
The Paradis Files | ★★★★ | Queen Elizabeth Hall | April 2022
A Midsummer Night’s Dream | ★★★ | The Maltings Theatre | May 2022
Space Station Earth | ★★ | Royal Albert Hall | May 2022
Starcrossed | ★★★★ | Wilton’s Music Hall | June 2022
Much Ado About Nothing | ★★★ | Jack Studio Theatre | August 2022
Playtime | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | September 2022


Click here to read all our latest reviews


Marlowe’s Fate


White Bear Theatre


Marlowe’s Fate

White Bear Theatre

Reviewed – 5th November 2021



“the charm and energy of the cast  keep things bubbling along”


Marlowe’s Fate by Peter B. Hodges, and directed by the author, has just opened at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington. Set initially in 1593, the year of Marlowe’s death, this is yet another drama dealing with the question of who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays. Answer: Shakespeare. But Shakespeare skeptics around the world will rejoice at a new exhumation on an epic mystery that never seems to stay buried. The set up is this: what if Marlowe didn’t die in a tavern brawl in Deptford, but was, instead, spirited away to Europe as a spy for Queen Elizabeth the First and her Privy Council?

Peter Hodges has chosen to treat this material in a comic way, and it’s certainly more palatable than the alternative. Marlowe’s Fate opens in the aforementioned Deptford tavern. Present are the hired assassins, Ingram Frizer, Nicholas Skeres and Robert Poley, discussing the job of dispatching the playwright who has been dazzling London theatre audiences with his Tamburlaine and Doctor Faustus. They are regretful about having to kill him since they are fans. Marlowe himself enters, and is, understandably, a bit upset to discover that he is about to be assassinated. He is only a bit less upset to find out that his death is going to be faked so that he can continue his work as a spy. At this point, Marlowe’s Fate becomes not a play about Marlowe’s mysterious death, but instead, a play about his eventual return from Europe (if ever). But to Marlowe the playwright, the more important question is this: how he can continue to write, and get his poems and plays out to his adoring public? Well, you guessed it. Enter an uneducated, unsophisticated glover’s son named Will’m Shaxper (sic) from Stratford upon Avon, looking for work with a local printer.

I won’t provide spoilers for this Marlovian/Shakespearean romp except to say that it has a little bit of everything. “Everything” including a rather wonderful impromptu puppet show featuring the Annual Shakespearean Author’s Challenge that opens the second act. As long as you are comfortable with the way that Marlowe’s Fate quickly devolves into absurdity from the few known facts about Christopher Marlowe (and William Shakespeare, for that matter), you will enjoy Hodges’ work in this spirited production. The play is overly long, and there is way too much exposition needed to explain how everything comes about, but the charm and energy of the cast (particularly Nicholas Limm as Marlowe, and Lewis Allcock as Shaxper) keep things bubbling along. As with most productions at the White Bear Theatre, “great reckonings in little rooms” are standard fare here, and the seven actors of Marlowe’s Fate don’t let the small space cramp their style. Penn O’Gara’s costumes and puppets are delightfully and economically made, and Reuben Speed’s Elizabethan tavern design feels appropriately “period.”

This is definitely a show for Shakespeare scholars seeking a break from another interminable conference, or for graduate students in search of a busman’s holiday from writing the never ending PhD dissertation. But really, Marlowe’s Fate is for anyone who enjoys a good “what if?” rather than a “whodunnit.”


Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Benji Paris


Marlowe’s Fate

White Bear Theatre until 28th November


Previously reviewed at this venue this year:
Luck be a Lady | ★★★ | June 2021


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