Review by Amanda Anastasi
When I mentioned to a handful of poets that I was off to see Ghostboy and Sir Lady Grantham’s show at the Melbourne Fringe Festival, I was inundated with comments to the effect of ‘Don’t sit in the front row, or in the aisle seat…actually you’re not safe anywhere!’ and ‘Are you ready for the monster?’ I am relieved to report that I was not pestered to the degree that certain other members of the audience were. Well, apart from Ghostboy handing me a packet of tobacco and suggesting I take up smoking, taking my umbrella and nicknaming me a ‘tie-shoed fox’. That’s right, Ghostboy improvised a nickname for each member of the audience upon a brief glance, as he strolled by us. So yes, this show involved a scary amount of spontaneity and audience interaction.
How fortunate for us that Sarah Curro (a musician described by Andrew Ford as ‘the Fairy Godmother of composers’) happened upon David Stavanger’s alter-ego Ghostboy and his musical accomplice Richard Grantham, to present them in this completely engaging double-bill. Sarah Curro’s series of Volume shows showcases new artists/composers, all musical and theatrical aspects of the show financed by her. Sarah opened the show by performing a mesmerizing set of pieces on solo amplified violin, accompanied with much casual banter. It was as though we were sitting with her in her living room.
Sarah began with a truly transporting piece Tourmaline by Richard Grantham, followed by Cat & Mouse by Hugh Crosthwaite. We were asked to decide, upon listening, whether we believed the cat or the mouse won at the end of the piece! Hence the audience involvement began… I rather liked the Philip Glass-esque JFK-LAX by Christian O’Brien, and this was followed by two other beautifully composed pieces by Jane Hammond and Cam Butler. As a prelude to the entry of Ghostboy and Grantham, a music video played on the screen above of Ghostboy with Golden Virtues, with the opening lines “If you don’t love me, then why did I meet your mother?” This started the audience chuckling, as did the recurring lines “Sometimes its right to do the wrong thing”.
When Ghostboy finally walked in, he was ever so casually playing croquet (or was it golf?) with a soccer ball and a colourful umbrella. Richard Grantham – forgive me, ‘Sir Lady Grantham’ – entered in a long black dress and took his place behind the keyboard. “He is a musician. He will never own a house” Ghostboy chided. Ghostboy insisted on the outset, and reminded us throughout the show, not to applaud Sir Lady Grantham. It was immediately conveyed that Grantham was Ghostboy’s ex-lover, the show being a journey through the rise and demise of the relationship.
In Mon Cheri, Ghostboy crooned to the Parisian sounds of Grantham on the accordion. “Oh mon cheri, you said this would not last and it didn’t – bitch.” For me, this piece was about the outset of romance and how one blindly and illogically enters a clearly doomed relationship. There were many memorable lines that struck me like “I put my soul into your shoe” and “I was not born until we met and, mon cheri, we are still to meet”. Then there were those peculiar lines that got you thinking about what on earth they meant like “My mother: she died when she was nine.” The show’s theme piece We Love You! (As Much As Everybody Else Does) was performed with pleasing gusto and energy. I rather liked the Don Juan inspired number with Grantham on Spanish guitar and this line in particular: “Don Juan rode a stallion. I ride the bus – concession.”
The audience was quite giggly, and understandably so with hilarious lines such as these. We also had Ghostboy donning a blue wig, kissing a dummy head and claiming it to be his mother – not to mention bringing an audience member onstage and putting him in a dummy and nappy, to be cradled like a baby. The lucky person subjected to this was Maurice McNamara, who was almost as oddly entertaining as Ghostboy himself! At one point we were asked to offer up our choice of a love-making song, after which Ghostboy sang You Are So Beautiful to Lady Grantham, and then to a helpless female audience member.
However, in the midst of the dark comedy were some very clever lines too good to be throwaway, and too moving not to want to ponder on further. I found the closing piece This Is The Death Of Sir Richard Grantham strangely poignant. Here Ghostboy talked about the passing of his ex-lover, as the ex-lover himself played piano chords sombrely behind him. Ghostboy accused various members of the audience of not appreciating Grantham. The front row were his cousins who were told off for being cruel to him. Anna Fern and Maurice McNamara were his parents, berated for making him a birthday cake out of lego, and the list went on! Of course, the main culprit of neglect was Ghostboy himself, still referring to Grantham as ‘bitch’!
Look, it’s not the kind of show you’d bring your mum or your kids to, and it is rather hard to encapsulate what on earth you are feeling or thinking while this meditative circus is unravelling. You are simply trying to piece it together, as well as praying to some kind of deity that you are not the audience member targeted! It was a rollercoaster theatre experience and yet, the intimate cosy atmosphere and the accessibility of the performers also made it an oddly relaxing experience. It was dark, funny, witty and scary all at once. Aided by the clever use of curious props, costume and Grantham’s accompanying music, Stavanger aka Ghostboy delivers his words with a conviction and clarity that makes them stick in your head long after the show is over. Upon the closing of We Love You, my immediate reaction was “Is it over already?” I suppose that quite says it all!
Volume 4 with Ghostboy and Sir Lady Grantham featured at the Melbourne Fringe Festival on the 12th and 13th of October at Hares and Hyenas, 63 Johnston Street, Fitzroy.
Sarah Curro’s Volume 5 show will be at BMW Edge, Federation Square on Sunday, 4th November @ 8pm featuring music from a new composers and the Cassomenos Orchestra.
Amanda Anastasi is a Melbourne page and performance poet with a Bachelor of Professional Writing and Literature from Deakin University. She is a two-time winner of the Williamstown Literary Festival’s Seagull Poetry Prize and a recipient of the 2011 Laura Literary Award’s C.J. Dennis Poetry Award. This year she is a judge in the Ada Cambridge Poetry Prize and has released her first poetry collection 2012 and other poems.