The loss of a parent: something we have all faced or will face in years to come. It will never seem fair, or right, or time. No matter the circumstance, it will incite a myriad of emotions – some we didn’t even know we could feel. Unholy Ghost navigates through a world of grief and through this, emerges a familiar portrait of life – one pervaded by absurdity and unexplainable occurrences, at times endearing experiences and at others, heartbreaking ones.
Campion Decent’s remarkably real play highlights the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of a dysfunctional family. The play follows the story of a middle-aged playwright (James Lugton), who is faced with the imminent death of both of his parents. Lugton performs with warmth and confidence and interacts with the audience with ease. He is playful and conversational, bridging us to his story.
One cannot dismiss the Mother (Anna Volska) and Father (Robert Alexander), whose individual stories and performances reduced me to tears. They encapsulated the foibles and eccentricities of their characters - the slightly racist remarks, the irrational behaviour and the terribly frustrating conversations, all the things that mean nothing when we have to finally consider a parent’s eventual passing.
There were moments that played upon the sensitivity of the subject matter and at times it was all snatched out from under us. It was this cyclical and lifelike approach to the writing that made it so successful.
Director Kim Hardwick brought the absolute best out of Decent’s writing and Michael Huxley’s sound design added sentimentality to the play, with glimmers of music in the opening scenes, recurring later in a bittersweet reprise.
The production design by Martin Kinnane was a downfall though - the red velvet carpet felt kitsch and unnecessary. Also, the bubbles, disco lights and 80s music at the end wasn’t exactly the ending I was hoping for. It seemed to dismiss the sadness, undermine the reality and upset the natural course of the drama. It sort of flung it all away in one grand gesture of “carpe diem” when so much of the play seemed to assert a different attitude.
Having said that, it is poignant writing and it undeniably resonates with us all – it reminds us of the fragility of life, and rationalizes the complex and, at times, incomprehensible relationships we have with our parents. Unholy Ghost is a beautiful trinity of mother, father and son; past, present and future; devastating, delightful and delicate.