Tag Archives: Union Theatre

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


Falling Stars

Falling Stars



Falling Stars

Falling Stars

Online stream.theatre

Reviewed – 23rd November 2020



“Sally Ann Triplett’s gorgeous, velveteen voice covers many of the ballads with a sensual warmth, rich in emotion”


In today’s current climate people are either pushing forward towards a somewhat uncertain future or taking a stroll down Memory Lane. The latter is invariably a journey accompanied by nostalgia, and it is through Peter Polycarpou’s rose tinted glasses that we are invited to view a snapshot of the music and the spirit of the 1920’s. Subtitled ‘A Celebration of the Golden Era’, it packs into an hour a treasure trove of melodies; a mix of the familiar with the obscure and in the process, we discover some real gems.

We are told, in the opening credits, that the production was cancelled on day one of rehearsals due to the lockdown, but that Polycarpou was determined to reach his audience, so in the space of three days he recorded the show for streaming online. A timely reminder that the explosion of creativity being celebrated here came out of a world reeling from the aftermath, not just of World War I, but also the third (take note!) wave of the ‘Spanish Flu’ pandemic. It is a century since such adversity gave way to the Roaring Twenties and the Jazz Age, and it is shows like Polycarpou’s song-cycle that give us hope that history will come full circle again and there is always cause for celebration.

“Falling Stars” is clearly a labour of love. The premise being that while killing time before a matinee show, he wandered into an antique shop, discovered a battered songbook and bought it for a song. Literally. Polycarpou’s excitement is infectious as he leafs through the pages and recruits Sally Ann Triplett to perform extracts and full-blown numbers from the songbook, translating the dusty, monochrome dots on the page into a multicoloured, multi-layered revue.

It is quite a whirlwind of a tour and comes across as a rather indulgent history lesson at times and, although fascinating, it is sometimes hard work to keep up with the rapid-fire catalogue of composers, lyricists, songwriters, performers and songs. It works best when Triplett and Polycarpou turn away from the camera and interact with each other. But better still when they melt into the songs. Polycarpou oozes personality and joie de vivre while Sally Ann Triplett’s gorgeous, velveteen voice covers many of the ballads with a sensual warmth, rich in emotion.

The title number, “Falling Star”, penned by Meredith Wilson and Charlie Chaplin, is one such fine example. It is quite a revelation to learn what a prolific and talented composer Charlie Chaplin was, particularly on other numbers too, such as the duet, “Now That It’s Ended”, and “Smile”, performed by Polycarpou accompanying himself at the piano. The evening contains a diverse set of numbers that shines a spotlight on many unfamiliar tunes as old favourites, intimately performed by the duo with Musical Director Mark Dickman on piano. Andrew Exeter’s lighting beautifully evokes the setting, merging the shadows of the antique shop with warm washes that tease the sentiment out of the lyrical content. But even in a bare, characterless backroom of a shop, Triplett could evoke the yearning and the passion of these songs, as she shifts from the plaintiff “Why Don’t You Leave Me Alone” to the upbeat duo “Tea For Two” or Buddy De Sylva’s “You Ain’t Heard Nothing Yet”.

The show closes with the achingly beautiful Irving Berlin number, “What’ll I Do?”, a bittersweet eulogy to lost love and faded dreams. It is countered, though, with a final echo of Chaplin’s inimitable verse; “You’ll find that life is still worthwhile, if you’ll just smile.” A bit mawkish, perhaps, but exactly what we want right now.



Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by  Paul Nicholas Dyke


Falling Stars

Online until 29th November via stream.theatre


Recently reviewed by Jonathan:
St Anne Comes Home | ★★★★ | St Paul’s Church Covent Garden | August 2020
A Hero Of Our Time | ★★★★ | Stone Nest | September 2020
Buyer and Cellar | ★★★★ | Above the Stag | October 2020
The Great Gatsby | ★★★★★ | Immersive LDN | October 2020
The Last Five Years | ★★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | October 2020
The Off Key | ★★★ | White Bear Theatre | October 2020
What a Carve Up! | ★★★★★ | Online | October 2020
Little Wars | ★★★★ | Online | October 2020
Right Left With Heels | ★★★★ | Online | November 2020
Marry me a Little | ★★★★ | Online | November 2020


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