Performed at this year's Melbourne Fringe Festival, His Ghostly Heart is an intimate 30-minute two-hander with a couple lying in bed just after having sex. Written by Ben Schiffer, best known for his work on TV series Skins, and directed by Richard Edge, its exploration of love and what it means to be loved is designed to be performed entirely in the dark.
Unfortunately, due to the necessity of the exit sign inside the performance space, the venue was not in pitch blackness, which was ultimately integral to the show’s overall effect. While you could not see facial expressions, the body outlines and movement were still quite visible. In order to experience this the way it was intended, I did have my eyes closed during the performance.
Riley Nottingham and Bundy Marston are well cast as the young couple in love, and with my eyes shut, I was able to listen to their voices, and their intimate emotional state is quite clear in the delivery of their lines and the pauses and silences between words. We hear the sense of achievement in Tom's voice when he exclaims that they lasted three songs and the self-loathing in Daisy's voice when she announces "I'm disgusting" is easily felt. When Tom is naming all the parts of Daisy's body that he loves, you can clearly picture his loving and cheeky face as his lips touch those aforementioned parts.
The build-up to the twist ending is cleverly constructed and highly effective, however, towards the end of His Ghostly Heart, the music and sounds being played are so loud, that is it difficult to hear what is being said. This ultimately makes it difficult to remain invested in the story and keep connected with the characters. Marston also seemed to struggle with the demands of the character in the final third, as the emotion that she has been working with earlier in the piece is not as focused and her lines begin to simply feel shouted.
Despite these closing shortcomings, His Ghostly Heart provides a very unique Fringe experience in its premise and light-starved performance. It remains a touching exploration of facing the realities of life and love and how sometimes, darkness is much more of a comfort than the harsh light of day.
Venue: Fringe Hub, Upstairs at Errol's, 69-71 Errol Street, North Melbourne, 3051
Season: Until 3 October | Tues-Sat 10.30pm
Tickets:$20 Full | $16 Conc | Cheap Tuesday
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival
* Original review appeared on Theatre Press on 29 September