“You can call me what you like. The point is I’m here and that’s the end of it. I don’t look like a ghost and I don’t feel like one, so what’s all the fuss about?” John Greenwood thinks he’s just popped out for fresh air after his traditional Christmas eve cocktail party. But a gust of wind locks him out of his house and propels him into a future where he discovers his wife is dead and his house is a spectre of its decadent self. He might have the error of his ways to discover, but in the meantime, he is much more annoyed with the business of being treated as a ghost, and what has happened to all his furniture?
This 1950s forgotten RC Sherriff comedy classic The White Carnation has transferred into its Jermyn Street setting after a sell out run at the Finborough theatre. It is to be taken no more seriously than Greenwood (Michael Praed) takes revelations of his cruelty, or of his panicking townspeople who try desperately and ridiculously to evict him.
The play features some brilliant characters. We loved Benjamin Whitrow as the unholier than thou vicar, dreading having to chat with an annoying neighbour (Josie Kidd) and who reveals a guilty stash of black market bananas in his briefcase. Daisy Boulton as aspiring librarian Lydia Truscott, was wonderful as the enthusiastic and naive ghost hunter, and other characters, from the nervous home office man Sir Horace Duncan (Philip York), to cockney biscuit munching PC plods made up the colourful 1950s character cast. The nods to sexual inequalities of the day, where wives were married to elevate husbands’ statuses in society and where women might feasibly only dream of becoming a librarian, added to the nostalgia and humour of the night.
Although one critic said it felt like too much padding, we think there was little to fault. Strange choice to put all cast in grey, black and white costume to match the muted greys of the setting (could we not have seen some subliminal, visual contrast between the living and the dead?) but that is a small bone to pick. This is a fun, light-hearted and skilfully wrought play rightfully resurrected after 60 years in the tomb of forgotten plays. We also applaud the theatre’s stated intent to put on more forgotten gems, and look forward to finding out what’s on at Jermyn Street theatre for 2014.