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Adelaide Fringe 2012

His Ghostly Heart

Presented by Holden Street Theatres

Genre: Mainstream Theatre


 Holden Street Theatres – The Manse

34 Holden St  



Low Down

 One bed, two actors, no lights: an stunning and convincing tale of love, regret and the essentially flawed nature of humanity.


 When a show begins with a warning about emergency exit locations and the use of a safe word, you know you’re in for something a little different; His Ghostly Heart, in the tiny Manse at Holden Street Theatres, is one such experience.

We file into a small room, set with only a bed and a rug on the floor, and take a seat at one of the thirty or so chairs that sit around the edge of the room. Massive Attack’s ‘Protection’ wails plaintively from an iPhone and I find myself seated right next to the bed, at the heart of the action.

The lights go out—this performance is conducted in pitch-blackness, and for the thirty-minute duration all the audience will see is the occasional gleam of skin, shadows moving in the space. We can vaguely make out the two actors entering the room, passionately moaning, as they finish making love no more than a metre from where I sit. It’s uncomfortably intimate; as your eyes are still adjusting to the dark, your mind is squirming at the voyeuristic nature of the performance.

 But here we are, in bed with Daisy and Thomas, and for the course of the show we are privy to the secrets, desires and desperation that takes place in this post-coital conversation.

 A few light moments at the beginning of the show are valuable in putting the audience at ease in this strange, dark environment, as Daisy berates Thomas for discarding his used condom on the floor. But soon, things take a more serious turn.

It becomes apparent that it is Daisy who doesn’t want the light on, as she lists concerns that are almost universal to women: insecurity, body issues. ‘I’m disgusting’, she claims, in the face of Thomas’ heartfelt declarations.

 Thomas is highly relatable in his frustration, and also in his tenderness. He shares stories of hiding under the stairs as a child, talking about the comfort he found in the dark, and his description mirrors our experience as the audience. There is a both haven and danger to be found in the blackness.

These performances are incredibly familiar—so familiar that at times, I am caught up in my own thoughts and memories. My level of discomfort at the closeness of the performance is testament to the believability of these two actors.

Ben Schiffer, who has previously worked as a writer on the UK show Skins, penned this script and it is evocative, truthful and absorbing. With a lesser material this show would have failed; robbed of our sight all we here have are the words, and they conjure with ease the characters and situation.

When the lights are raised for the final scene, the ability to see adds immensely to the power of the performance, as Thomas is revealed at his most vulnerable. I take the opportunity to scan the faces of the audience and see expressions varying from shock to sadness; this has clearly been a moving performance.

His Ghostly Heart showcases the brutality of love and how early experiences can haunt us forever. It’s almost like a memory that you can’t totally recall, like a grenade ‘dangerous and delicate like the pin could come out at any time’. It may be a short performance, but it’s one that will stay with you long after you leave the venue. This show is uncomfortable, compelling viewing and a definite must-see for this year’s Fringe.