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 The Theatreguide.London Review

In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic forced the closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted by putting archive recordings of past productions online, others by streaming new shows. Until things return to normal we review the experience of watching live theatre onscreen.


Ghost Light
Edinburgh International Festrival and National Theatre Of Scotland   Summer 2020

In the absence of a live Edinburgh International Festival this year, the Festival website offers new and archive recordings of some scheduled companies and individual performers.

The National Theatre of Scotland is represented by a new and purpose-made thirty-minute salute to Scottish theatre and theatre in general, written and directed by Hope Dickson Leach.

The piece is structured as a string of actors speaking two-to-three-minute excerpts from more than a dozen Scottish plays. Sources range from Barrie's Peter Pan through McGrath's The Cheviot The Stag And The Black Black Oil to Rona Munro's James I and some as-yet-unproduced new works.

A ghost light is the naked bulb on a stand that remains lit on a stage overnight, and director Leach and her cameramen start and end with that image. In between, they wander around the theatre building, with monologues spoken onstage, backstage, and in a dressing room, a costume shop, a hallway, a lift, a box seat, and so on.

There is no doubt that the film is more effective if you recognize some or all of the excerpts – they're not identified until the closing credits – or recognize some or all of the performers – ditto, and you might want to double back and look again at James McArdle, Siobhan Redmond or others when you find out who they were.

So the celebration of the Scottish dramatic heritage probably doesn't really work for the majority of those who watch it.

The love letter to theatre in general and this theatre building in particular is very evocative. The camera's eye – and the viewer's – is repeatedly drawn past the performer to the posters on the walls, the racks of costumes or just the fascinating backstage machinery.

In fact the half-hour is best spent in not trying to guess the quotation or the speaker, but in just allowing yourself to be caught up in the loving behind-the-curtain tour.


Gerald Berkowitz


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Review of  Ghost Light 2020