'Phantasmagoria' Theatre Review

Photo by Jack Dixon-Gunn. Sourced: Theatreworks

Ghosts! Across centuries, playwrights have used ghosts to expose secrets and truths to the living.

This “magical mystery tour” from Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman who also created the artwork, puppetry design and animation is brought effortlessly to the stage by Director Cathy Hunt and dramaturg Emilie Collyer. Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman is ably supported on stage by puppeteers Meg Dunn, Elnaz Sheshgelani and Yuchen Wang.

But does the dramatic effect of using ghosts have the same impact these days? Some reviewers have suggested that modern day audiences are too sophisticated to be affected by ghostly apparitions. I would submit that Phantasmagoria by representing “ghosts” in an equally magical world of puppetry and animation certainly contradicts this view. No actors in white sheets here!

In the opening scene, the reference to bats seems obscure but sets the context for the appearance later in the play of our three ghosts as life-size puppets. Those versed in Greek mythology will surely recognise the three spirits materialising on stage in Phantasmagoria as the Erinyes (Furies). These goddesses of vengeance and retribution punished men for crimes against the natural order, and were often depicted in bat-like form.

Our protagonist Briony, is seeking out the “truth” about her deceased father’s past and turns to a medium to reincarnate her father as a lifelike apparition. When the ghostly Erinyes appear they are comedic almost pathetic characters, so no vengeance is wrought upon her father who was a perpetrator of domestic violence.

So, the questions remain, is it better to forgive and forget? Can Briony find the revelations and discourse with her father to be truly liberating? Bernadette Trench-Thiedeman permits her audience to make up their own minds.

Phantasmagoria offers a refreshingly novel and innovative approach to the perennial theme of family secrets – truth, lies and the space in between.

Rating: 7/10


Venue: Theatre Works - 14 Acland Street St Kilda

Dates: 2 - 12 March 2022

Times: Tuesday - Saturday: 7.30pm, Saturday: 12 March 2pm, Sunday: 13 March 5.00pm

Duration: 70 minutes (no interval)

Prices: $20 - $35 + booking fee

Book here!

TheatreWorks Website

Special Notes:

Auslan: Saturday 12 March @7:30PM