by Hannah Marie Stait
Most know Gothic writer Wilkie Collins for his novel The Woman in White, but many theatre lovers flocked to the New Theatre to view the Rumpus Theatre Company with their production of Collin’s less known work The Ghost’s Touch, also known as Mrs Zant and the Ghost. Dealing with the complex relationship between the supernatural, the delusional and the emotional, the show pictures Mr Rayburn’s journey as he connects with Mrs Zant as she travels the journey of grief to insanity, while Rayburn battles between his feelings for her and to find the truth in it all.
Opening with the eerie voice of a child calling for their father, the audience is filled with a sense of foreboding as we follow the brilliant Mark Homer word for word as he reacts to his daughter whose character is portrayed only by voiceover. This allowed the audience to really connect with Homer’s portrayal as he is on stage throughout the whole performance, with only the voiceovers to develop his portrayal of Rayburn’s wounded journey. I will say that there is nothing creepier to me than a menacing whisper calling for their daddy echoing around a theatre. I expected it to have more unsettling moments like this but while I can’t say that there was all in all it was the emotion of the play that made it so brilliant.
The only other stage presence to Homer was the talented Terri Dwyer as Mrs Zant who brilliantly conveys the line between delusion and denial as we follow Zant’s trauma at losing her husband and child.
These two actors used raw emotion and talent to portray this deep tale of loss and growth in the early nineteenth century. The only tools to them being exactly three props and the minimalist set of black curtains and a victorian park bench allowed these two to truly engage and react to each others interpretation. Keeping the audience on their toes with the mystery all the way to the end with the emotional plot reveal by which I was blown away by the emotion each one portrayed. As the plot reached its climax the two were feeding emotion to each other with heart wrenching sobs that for a moment made me feel like I was witnessing something private, meant for no-one but the two upon the stage.
Director John Goodrum definitely brought the emotion and mystery of a nineteenth century Gothic novel to us in a way that definitely resonated within the theatre.