Whisper House Review

Whisper House Review

Whisper House Cast

Simon Bailey (Male Ghost), Nicholas Goh (Yasuhiro), Simon Lipkin (Sherif), Niamh Perry (Female Ghost), Dianne Pilkington (Aunt Lily), Fisher Costello-Rose (Christopher).

Whisper House Review

Short, innovative and intensely atmospheric, Whisper House is one of the best pieces of theatre I've seen this year. Set on America's east coast during the Second World War a young boy, Christopher (Fisher Costello-Rose), loses his father and is sent to live with his lonely, isolated Aunt Lily (Dianne Pilkington). The only other people present in Lily's life are the local Sheriff (Simon Lipkin) and her Japanese handyman Yasuhiro (Nicholas Goh). 

On the surface, this piece is about tolerance and human relationships in uncertain global times, but the ghosts present in Lily's house add a whole other level to proceedings (a metaphorical level that is!). The ghosts (played by Niamh Perry and Simon Bailey) float around the other characters acting as unnerving twinges of the past, what might have been, and prophetic symbols of the future, what could be. Their constant presence enters the psyche of the living characters, amplifying their general sense of unease and affecting the choices they make.

Whisper House breaks beyond the standard musical theatre form. Duncan Sheik's music (lyrics also by Kyle Jarrow) acts as a narration of sorts, providing an insight into the minds of the living characters. It's haunting, eerie and (like the score of his better-known piece 'Spring Awakening') quietly wedges itself deep into your soul. It's only the ghosts that really sing and Niamh Perry in particular, whose unique voice couldn't be more suited to the ghostly goings on, puts in a beautiful performance. 

The rest of the cast is pretty much limited to dialogue which makes Whisper House feel very much like a play with music floated over the top. Dianne Pilkington delivers a stunning physical performance, maintaining Aunt Lily's club foot throughout. Lily's relationship with young Christopher forms the spine of the piece and both Pilkington and Fisher Costello-Rose were a joy to watch; however, it's in Aunt Lily's relationships with Yasuhiro and the Sheriff that Whisper House doesn't feel complete. Not enough time or subtext is given to either character making some of the latter plot features feel sporadic. There's definitely room for the book to delve deeper into the issues facing Japanese Yasuhiro - you never quite feel the realistic weight of what it would have meant for him to be banished from the country. 

Kudos must, however, be given for how well this production uses the space at The Other Palace. The set is built into the ground (it's pit like in nature) and atmospheric projections, as well as a tonne of theatrical mist, are used to great effect to create seamless changes of location. Adam Lenson's fantastic direction has the cast floating around the stage's circular form with movement often indicating the passage of time - it's cohesive and flows incredibly well.

Overall, Whisper House is a unique, atmospheric piece with an excellent cast; it delivers a haunting message that's highly relevant to the decisions we make in today's uncertain global climate. I give Whisper House a rating of 4/5.

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