Ghost Light, Theatre New Brunswick’s latest production, opened this Thursday. An autobiographical one-man show written and performed by renowned Canadian actor Shawn Wright, Ghost Light tells the story of his relationship with his late mother, and how she inspired his passion for theatre.
Starting from his mother’s birth and carrying through all the way until her passing, Wright provides countless anecdotes and stories describing her life and his. Topics range all the way from religion and sexuality to country music and Meryl Streep. Emphasizing his mother’s passions for the theatre and for the church as key influences in both of their lives, Wright fleshes out the many aspects of her, from her opinionated lectures to her blunt honesty. The various scenes and stories are framed sometimes with admiration and sometimes incredulity, but always with love. This complex portrayal resonates, making her memory a tangible thing.
Though a veteran stage actor, Wright’s performance presents a unique challenge. He is a man who’s spent his life on the stage, and now he’s portraying himself for the first time. Considering this and the fact that Ghost Light is the first play he’s written, it wouldn’t be unseemly for it to be a fairly subdued piece. In spite of this though, he keeps things varied, bouncing between monologues and spirited interactions where he plays both parts, often reenactments of conversations with his mother during her last days in the hospital, bringing the audience to both laughter and tears.
As a one-man show, Ghost Light is driven by Wright’s powerful stage presence. One minute animated and fully in character, the next conversational and down-to-earth. His performance is both entrancing and humanizing. Wright’s performance makes fantastic use of the Open Space Theatre’s layout, embracing the closeness between actor and audience, and giving an intimate sense of immediacy. Embracing the small theatre’s minimalism, few props or set pieces are needed to support his acting, only a few candles lit for the departed and the pillars on which they stand.
All in all, Ghost Light is a genuinely touching, heartfelt experience. Wright proves himself to be an enthralling storyteller every moment of the performance. His devotion to honouring his mother’s memory is paramount, and is ultimately what carries the play, through both comedic tales and somber reflections.
Ghost Light will be showing in Fredericton at the Open Space Theatre at 55 Whiting Road from November 17th-27th, after which it will be going on tour. For showtimes, locations, and tickets, visit Theatre New Brunswick.