[2012023] His Ghostly Heart

[2012023] His Ghostly Heart [FringeTIX]

Holden Street Theatre Company Inc @ Holden Street Theatres – The Manse

10:45am-ish, Wed 22 Feb 2012

I arrive at Holden Street way too early, so I grab some sugar and caffeine and sit down to write… well, pretty much anything at this stage. Martha arrives – it’s great to see her again – and asks whether I’m here for the Media Day – no, I reply, just Les Enfants and Fleeto. She mentions that there’s a media preview of His Ghostly Heart about to start – would I be interested in seeing it, numbers permitting? Hell yes, I say, and scurry over to meet the floor manager for the show. There’s twenty seats in the venue, she tells me, and there’s only seventeen confirmed at the moment; there’s a nervous wait for me as real media continues to turn up. In the end, I’m last-man-in.

The Manse is an intimate space, and it’s set up in much the same manner as Scarborough: a bed in the centre of the room, chairs lining the walls. Once we’re all seated, the doors are closed, the iPod is turned off – and the room is plunged into darkness, save for a crack or two of bright daylight seeping in through the sides of the door.

The pitch black is briefly broken by the light from another room as a Tom and Daisy, possibly mid-coitus, stagger through a door towards the bed, her legs wrapped around his waist. There’s some huffing and puffing – definitely coitus, and some awkward chat, before a holding of breath, a pause, and the sound as a condom lands with a laden plop on the floor.

As Daisy admonishes Tom for littering her floor with his prophylactic, the story within His Ghostly Heart opens right up; nothing is as it seems, as her presence – spiritual or otherwise – opens wound after gaping wound in Tom. In one timeframe, she is unable to change herself for the better, and willingly pays the price… but he still vainly tries to make an effort, evoking her in his memory as impetus.

Daisy’s needling becomes more and more direct, targeting Tom’s failures in brutal detail – and I’m quietly staggered. There’s so much of this that feels like it’s directed at me; in the dark, Daisy could be talking to me. The self-centred viewpoint, the rapid acceptance of blame… “even your nightmares are egotistical and solipsistic,” she snipes, and I am the one copping the bullet.

Finally, after one last snarling barrage, Daisy leaves the room, slamming the door as she goes; Tom wakes up on the bed with a start, sobbing. The light comes on for the first time and we see his see body heaving through the tears. He settles; the light goes off. The Ghosts are gone. Gentle applause, the door opens, daylight floods in.

And, in the warmth of the sun outside, I start to muse.

I loved the text behind His Ghostly Heart – and the direction, the presentation in that imagination-stoking room, is great. But the vocal performances, somehow, didn’t quite do it for me: maybe it was the jarring foreign references with local accents; maybe it was the slightly unnatural delivery. I wound up almost translating their speech on the fly in my head, interpreting the spoken word as written so as to let my imagination run wild with the words in the dark.

Sharing the room with the established media contingent was an odd experience, too: with hearing heightened by the darkness, the scratching of pens on paper as they took notes lent an odd texture to the near silence between words… and made me wonder about how those copious notes get distilled down into the short reviews that get published in all the usual outlets.

Overall, His Ghostly Heart was a conflicted presentation for me: I loved the story, but was disappointed by the delivery. Having said that, it’s still one of those experiences that I don’t regret in any way – and once again, I must thank Martha for the opportunity.

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