The right spirit
An interview with Paul Kieve, director Mathew Warchus and designer Rob Howell in the Financial Times to tie in with the London opening of Ghost The Musical. Full version here.
“It was quite daunting,” adds Kieve (a veteran of stage and screen sorcery, who has worked on The Invisible Man and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, among many others). “You don’t know whether you are going to screw up until you get it on to the stage.”
There are spectacular illusions in the show, but they are used much more sparingly than in the film. Warchus explains that the team wanted to avoid staging a conjuring display: “We put a line through all the tricks that seemed to be cosmetic rather than fundamental. If you do too many they start to cannibalise each other.”
The most brilliant effects – people vanishing, ghosts rising out of bodies – coincide with the emotional climaxes of the story. Kieve had to make them convincing without upstaging the drama: “You can make the audience think ‘how is that done?’ and that can jolt them out of the story,” he explains.
That meant embedding the effects in the fabric of the story. If a man is going to vanish before an audience’s eyes, the team quickly realised, the set and direction have to support that from the outset. In rehearsals, Warchus got used to being told by Kieve that some areas of the stage were out of bounds “for secret reasons”. Actors submitted to inch-precise instructions as to where to stand. Meanwhile Howell produced a multi-tasking set of sliding screens, capable of framing the intimate scenes and the bustling New York streets, while carrying both the optical illusions and the music videos that accompany the songs