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Crying Chair Theatre Company: The Ghost Writer - Review by Jessica Scopelliti

So much more than “the simple story of a mother’s grief,” The Ghostwriter by Ross Mueller makes its Sydney debut at Flight Path Theatre in Marrickville this month. This captivating drama brings together an entanglement of characters who have different connections to the horrific reality of a murdered child, Megan. From the moment you enter the theatre, an air of mystery is established by the subtle and poignant set and lighting design which immerses you in rain and fog, thunder and lightning, encouraging your apprehension and instantly engendering questions about the unnerving crime - a parent’s worst nightmare. 





Director Jane Angharad uses the minimal set to immense effect with masterful blocking, positioning actors in their best light for this unique theatre and maintaining tension between characters through intelligent directorial choices which favour the space. Angharad’s wise use of space, timing and proxemics allows the audience insight to four characters whose experiences are in many ways relatable and often intense. Through scenes of highly charged, emotional exchanges, the audience is invited, by the presence of reflective perspex lining the backdrop of the stage, to look inwards and perhaps to question their own limits or capacities to deal with life’s tragedies. This reflective surface physically encourages introspection and asks us to place ourselves within the plights of the characters before us, further underlining the relatability of their stories.

Brihanna is the brazen, hardened mum of the deceased Megan; a cig-smoking, Woodstock and cola drinking “Westie,” who is played with passion and belief by Emma Dalton. Dalton captivates the audience from the outset of the play with her brash manner, harsh vocal tones and unabashed bravado, declaring “people can tell me what a rude bitch I am!” and like statements in defence of her unrefined ways. Her comic timing is easy to appreciate, but moments of feeling vulnerability are no challenge to Dalton either - we see her present the broken parts of a woman who has lost her child and who is begging for her story to be told with heartfelt truth.





Played by Mark Langham is Robert, a somewhat harried, yet successful publisher, who meets Brihanna’s energy in several engaging scenes of repartee. Langham’s capacity to create depth and belief within his relationships to the other characters is notable and is seen on several occasions, memorably in the scenes with Claudia, the “ghost writer” played by Mel Day. Day and Langham present the complexities of a relationship between publisher and writer, but much more, with honesty and feeling throughout the play. Day’s undertaking of this pivotal role is touching, and she carries out Claudia’s frustrations at the process of writing, conflicts of interest and personal obstacles with empathy.


A standout in this production was the performance of Shan-Ree Tan who plays the role of Simon West, a hardworking police detective whose connection to Megan’s case becomes jarringly intertwined with his connection to Claudia in a serendipitous turn of events. In numerous poignant moments, Tan shows us the depths of a tormented policeman who has seen too much tragedy. His voice, physicality, and overall expression command the stage and he is fully and truly in the role throughout. Tan’s scenes with Langham are particularly heartfelt and his vulnerable moments let us see the flesh and blood man inside the protective outer shell of a cop.





The Ghostwriter is a compelling story and certainly worth seeing; you will be immersed in a captivating story of loss and hardship which gives earnest insight to the human condition but doesn’t leave you without hope for connection and consolation in life. I give this production five out of five cans of Woodstock and cola.


Photography courtesy of Braiden Toko.


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