Darling Ghost

Wed 6th – Tue 19th August 2014


Catherine Edwards

at 08:07 on 16th Aug 2014



Darling Ghost was hard to categorise - very hard. A collaboration of singer and pianist Sheena Bernett's compositions, woodwind music and spoken word, in the beautifully atmospheric (if a little hard to find) venue of St Mark's Church should have made for a stirring hour of performance. Maybe it would have done, if I'd had a clue what was going on. Unfortunately, no such hint was provided, either by Bernett's songs or the bizarre monologues with which the performance was interspersed.

Bernett played very well, as did the musicians who accompanied her on flute, saxaphone and clarinet. The melodies were hauntingly beautiful, with an intensity which at times crescendoed to become frantic and disturbing, and Bernett's voice had incredible range. It wasn't unpleasant to listen to, but was something of an acquired taste. Though the arrangements were technically very good (and apparently largely improvised), the lyrics were often difficult to make out and at times the vocals verged on screeching.

The spoken word segments were equally confusing, as two women gave cryptic speeches including nonsensical lines such as “You smell like dreams, seeded, grown, rotten” and “do I have limbs any more?” Both actresses had good diction and performed with some emotion, but the performances were neither entirely convincing nor stirring. At one point, they played on a child's xylophone, but by this time I had given up questioning the meaning of anything in this performance.

This was perhaps due to the fact that the overarching story or theme, if one existed, was never clarified. The show had its fair share of broken hearts and angst - no one can fault the performers' emotion. Bernett portrayed a range of emotions as her songs veered from melancholic to agressive to dark. Several spectators seemed visibly moved by the performance, perhaps proof that an open-minded audience could find a lot to reflect on in Darling Ghost.

Bernett herself described the performance at the end as an exploration of time and space, and being in the moment. It came across as a surreal experiment. I emerged from the show unsure how to process what had just happened, and I still don't know what to make of it all.


Hannah Blythe

at 09:36 on 16th Aug 2014



Sheena Bernett describes her Darling Ghost as ‘theatrical anti-punk... that is, you feel the need to describe it.’ It’s certainly hard to say exactly what Darling Ghost was. So, as Sheena suggests, I’ll describe it to you. Pianist and vocalist, Sheena, played her mournful and haunting songs as orchestral musicians and actors improvised accompaniment. I’m not entirely sure that the difficulty in pinning down the identity of Darling Ghost is a positive thing. The absence of clear themes left me confused, rather than contemplative.

Sheena is clearly a talented musician. Her musical was well written and performance skilful. Her distinctive voice was captivating. And the orchestral musicians’ accompaniment was a delight to listen to. Unfortunately, the sound mix was a little off, so the instruments often drowned out Sheena’s lyrics. Likewise, I had to strain to hear Chantelle Micallef Grimand and Kristel Harder as they delivered improvised dramatic interpretations of the music.

The show’s atmosphere was enchanting. It took place in one of the Fringe’s more unusual venues. St Mark’s Unitarian Church provided a fitting setting. The performers made effective use of the space. Chantelle and Kristel, throughout the show, positioned themselves across the room. The audience often had to search the pews to locate the source of the doleful voices that intermittently punctuated the music. Some impressive costumes added to the gothic Victorian ambiance.

Despite the impressive performance and stage-setting, the show failed to make a significant emotional impact. Sheena strives to make her audience feel ‘pleasantly uncomfortable.’ I was, however, lefty largely cold and confused. The show needed a little more direction to be a truly exploitative piece.

At the end of the performance, Sheena explained that her aim was to create a show about ‘being in the moment’ and ‘in time and space.’ Sheena’s artistic and emotive creativity were commendable and I can see what she was trying to achieve. Darling Ghost, however, was in need of some tighter conceptualisation because the end product was frustratingly nebulous. Instead of probing my innermost emotions, I spent the majority of time trying to work out what was going on.


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