By Linda Wilkinson at the Union Theatre, Southwark, 21 Sep – 8 Oct 2022
Ghosts on a Wire charts the activity and acceptance of a bright new force: electricity. This power is founded on a site that requires the devastation of an established community South of the Thames, at Bankside.
Disbelief and cynicism are rife amongst the people of Bankside, doubting the value of this new power: I imagine Sir, that apart from enabling us to unwittingly run around like rabbits, you are going to tell us that this electricity will power mills and factories.
Ghosts on a Wire bring the past to the present through savvy storytelling. Mary Shelly’s prophetic Frankenstein introduces the concept of electricity whilst William Blake haunts Octavia Hill, the much-lauded founding mother of social housing, whom he advises, cajoles and warns of injustice to come. Meanwhile, Michael Faraday and his cohorts drive their plans for power through objections, doubt and concerns for social justice with little care for the community that will be forcibly dispersed when the bulldozers move in … does this sound familiar?
Linda Wilkinson has cleverly articulated how the rise of our first power station Bankside displaced an established community and while electricity brought power in many ways to many people and to many facets of life, sacrifices were made by those unable to fight corrupt, richer forces. The dialogue is appropriately bright and often brilliant, the characterisations sassy and smart, the flow of the play seamless.
This is social commentary in story form; it is about how power, whether leadership or energy works in the world. It is a sharp, witty, compelling and utterly contemporary tale of who wins, and who loses.
The set designers deserve applause here too; simplicity is all and poetic, creative use of light delivers all the visual power needed for the Ghosts to play their part.
This is not a play about yesterday … it is a play about today. Go and see it.
© Giovanna Forte 2022