Tag Archives: Timothy Harker

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





Jack Studio Theatre



Jack Studio Theatre

Reviewed – 17th June 2021



“light and comfortable viewing”


The delightfully intimate Jack Studio Theatre reopens in front of a socially-distanced audience with this charming two-hander by Stewart Pringle. Last seen live-streamed from the Maltings Theatre, the production is directed by Matthew Parker. Jilly Bond reprises her role as Denise, the sinewy Zumba teacher, who meets weekly with retired widower Harry played by Timothy Harker.

Our scene is one end of the Billingham Temperance Hall with its stark entrance, a stack of black plastic chairs and the ubiquitous trestle table at centre stage. There is just enough clutter in and on top of a cupboard to represent the paraphernalia that such community spaces attract and an appropriate selection of posters (almost certainly out-of-date) on the community noticeboard.

Numerous mini-scenes flash by, one week apart. Harry’s committee meeting finishes before Denise’s Zumba class starts and in the few minutes’ hiatus, beginning with a misunderstanding, we see their friendship – if not a relationship – develop and blossom. There is small talk and the sharing of sandwiches, and little by little personal information leaks out. But can we believe these short meetings can develop into romance? Denise talks of the steamy scenes she is reading but she does not follow such talk into action. Harry is too content with his mundane unchanging routine to risk the turmoil of change.

Harker excels as the fastidious Harry, with his shuffling of papers and bumbling manner, in a tweed jacket and sleeveless woollen sweater, and a flat cap to remind us of his Yorkshire-ness. When appointed Chairman to his board he buys his own gavel on eBay but sheepishly admits he has never had to use it in a meeting. But he mimes with it when no-one is looking.

Denise is brash, and confident enough to run both an exercise class and a book club, but she is unable to confront a man who makes comments on her eating a banana in the library.

The well-rehearsed movement between the couple in the confined space is slick and easy. Entrances and exits through the one small door are timed perfectly. Only when the couple attempt to sit on the table does the fluency stutter; Harker (or Harry) can’t hide his doubts that the trestle is sufficiently stable.

There is no full blackout between scenes so that we can see the reset for the next meeting. Tedium from the repetitive actions of stacking and restacking the chairs and the repositioning of the trestle table is narrowly avoided. Only the continuous opening and closing of Harry’s briefcase becomes a bugbear. And it jars when the trestle is incongruously left standing in some later scenes as the premise of the play is surely that the table has to be moved for Denise’s Zumba class.

Both Bond and Harker play the comedy gently and convincingly. It is light and comfortable viewing – the potential source for a Sunday evening TV sit-com – but the personal stories lack depth and, whilst we learn that even older people can get muddled in their efforts to forge relationships, the journey our couple make is not long enough.



Reviewed by Phillip Money

Photography by Laura Harling



Jack Studio Theatre until 26th June


Previously reviewed by Phillip:
The Money | ★★★ | Online | April 2021
Animal Farm | ★★★★ | Royal & Derngate | May 2021


Click here to see our most recent reviews