A Gig for Ghosts review – a joyous musical meditation on love and death

Soho theatre, London
The raucous folk songs, open-hearted performances and tender love story make this queer gig-theatre romcom a delight

Gently directed by Ria Parry, this is a queer romcom of glorious, unbridled joy which makes the whole room giddy and sweeps us all up in the heady delight of new love … until the feeling of snug safety is cut through with a deep, cascading grief. Built from bright-eyed humour and raucous folk songs, A Gig for Ghosts is a gorgeously tender, quiet story of love and death.

It is a musical tale of two lost and lonely women meeting in London, told by a trio of open-hearted performances. Amy (Hanora Kamen, on guitar) is cynical, hardened by her time in the city. Lily (Rori Hawthorn, on fiddle), recently arrived and still barely unpacked, tumbles over herself with excitement. Lily, as a temp, navigates an existence of impermanence. Amy deals in death: when someone dies with no one to notice they’re gone, the body can lie in wait for months. But when the absence or smell is eventually noticed, it is Amy who organises the collection of the corpse. When Lily’s and Amy’s lives collide, we fall for them just as quickly as they fall for each other.

Accompanying their soft and imperfect love story is Maud (Liz Kitchen, drums), playing a cacophony of side characters including Lily’s hilarious and persistent Aunt Gina. The three of them exude warmth and delight with their sweeping harmonies, their instruments a mere extension of their fingertips. It is such a pleasure to watch them perform.

Kamen and Hawthorn as Amy and and Lily.
New love … Kamen and Hawthorn as Amy and and Lily. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

We know death is present from the start but the plot twists aren’t important. It’s the details that make this story soar. Fran Bushe’s book and lyrics are full of the eccentricities that make you love a person; the subtle ways people let each other down, and the solidity of showing that they care. Becky CJ’s music, ranging from tender tapping underscores to fully-fledged folk songs, allows these details to dance.

Gig-theatre is the perfect medium for this story about ephemerality and how we hold on to the things that pass. On their first date, Lily charms a taken-aback Amy by singing her a folk song. When Amy, rightfully wooed, asks if she can write it down, Lily says no. These songs must be spoken, she says, to a girl whose hand you’re holding, to a microphone or a small cluster of chairs. They must be remembered and repeated in rooms of people who will go home humming. That is how we keep the ghosts of our memories, our loved ones and their stories, alive.


Kate Wyver

The GuardianTramp

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