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Ghostly tale just the tonic for Christmas spirit

A crackling fireside, a howling blizzard outside, a glass of sherry – Christmas Eve was made for ghost stories.

Today, we’re more likely to shut the bifolds in our new extension against the weather, rather than bolt the door of our rambling country pile, but the fascination with the supernatural persists.

This is played out to perfection with the second of Warwick Arts Centre’s festive shows, The Canterville Ghost, in which company Tall Stories brings to life Oscar Wilde’s tale of an American family doing battle with an ancestral spectre.

Set in an old manor house in rural England, theatre company Tall Stories ingeniously recreate a jumble of staircases, halls and galleries by means of sliding doors and velvet drapes.

Originally the story of nouveau riche from the New World chasing away outmoded traditions, this version sees the newcomers’ identity swapped from US interlopers to English capitalists – perhaps a subtle commentary on how we can no longer expect America to provide enlightenment in these Trumpian times?

Wilde’s original tale is by no means the end of the story – a subplot featuring old-style stars of vaudeville and music hall is ingeniously interwoven with the action at Canterville Hall, with the final denouement more unsettling than Wilde’s feel-good conclusion.

The family entertainers – a psychic, an illusionist and a ventriloquist, plus a Master of Ceremonies – perform their acts with good-natured aplomb, which makes the final conclusion of the last five minutes all the more shocking.

All in all, this festive spinechiller is perfect viewing for the Christmas season.

(Aimed at families with children 12 and above).

Tickets £15.50, available from the Box Office on 024 7652 4524

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