Ghost from a Perfect Place at the Arcola
Ghost from a Perfect Place returns to the London stage this autumn, 20 years since its initial inception to critical acclaim at Hampstead Theatre. Written by Philip Ridley, this play receives a 21st century revival from Sarah Stribley Productions with direction by Russell Bolam (Shivered, The Seagull) and this time around graces East London’s Arcola Theatre.
Ghost from a Perfect Place is a tale of two halves. Set entirely in a dated kitchen, Mrs Sparks opens the show; a small, quaint pensioner of East London heritage overflowing with cockney charm. She receives an unexpected visit from familiar face from the past: enter Mr Flood, seeking the affection of her granddaughter Baby Rio after an earlier chance encounter. A renowned East London gangster, Mr Flood previously terrorised and owned these gritty streets. Act One sees Mrs Sparks and Mr Flood bounce off each other in a series of wonderfully scripted interactions, captivatingly retelling animated tales of their 60s heyday, full of dark humour and endearingly told woes. It’s a gingerly led though charming introduction leading to an explosive second half, which is segued perfectly with the introduction of Baby Rio – Mrs Spark’s granddaughter and our lead protagonist. No longer a baby, she’s an empowered feminist gang leader, with thick-as-thieves sidekicks The Disciples – Miss Kerosene and Miss Sulfur dutifully in tow. They’re the anti-Charlie’s Angels, blonde bombshells emblazoned in lurid market stall clothing, wreaking havoc and seeking retribution against men. Florence Hall leads as Rio with gutsy panache: she’s a force to be reckoned with and brings the hardened Mr Flood to his knees.
Unknowingly connected through a historic tale of Mr Flood’s criminal and perverse ways, a sorrowful story unfolds of a collective disturbingly intertwined through a series of events and repercussions. The Disciples recount grim tales of street life through a series of powerful diatribes, touching expertly on sensitive issues from female exploitation to rape and gang torture. It’s not for the faint-hearted but consistent humorous undertones ensure an enamouring watch.
Ghost from a Perfect Place is hard-hitting and perfectly provocative. Two decades later, it reclaims its place on a London Stage and demonstrates with poise why this impactful story is still culturally relevant – it’s a bitter insight into cause and effect. This compelling drama could easily falter while tackling such potent contemporary issues, however the cast deliver with enough entertaining wit to make this an incredibly affecting and intelligent production.
Photos: Ben Broomfield
Ghost from a Perfect Place is at Arcola Theatre until 11th October 2014, for further information or to book visit here.