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Sydney review - Giving up the Ghost: a delightful, extraordinary experience

Right: Andrew Wang as the billionaire pleasure-seeker. Image by Clare Hawley.

Giving up the Ghost

By Rivka Hartman

A Pop Up Theatre Production

Directed By Rivka Hartman

Limelight On Oxford

231 Oxford Street,


As you walk across the stage to find your seat at this venue, a large and shiny coffin dominates the set. It’s a signal that this play may be out of the ordinary or may I say, out of this world. And fortunately for the audience, Giving up the Ghost is a delightful, extraordinary experience.

Rivka Hartman is quite a talent. She is playwright, producer and director and we’re honoured to be at the opening night of her world premiere Australian comedy. Rivka has written a most enjoyable story with only four characters and a whole variety of interesting family issues to be dissected and analysed.

Treated mostly in a light-hearted manner, we deal with death, terminal illness, sex, guilt, and the big one, euthanasia.

The play is set in the living room of a doctor widow whose husband has passed away a few days prior. The funeral is going to be an ‘in-home’ service and hence the coffin is proudly on display for all to see.

Whether real or imagined by the wife, her husband arises from the coffin as a ghost and they have a post-death chance to discuss unfinished business such as her suspicions about her husband having an affair.

Perhaps typical of a grieving spouse is the love-hate thoughts that cloud the mind when a lifelong partner has gone. One minute the wife voices anger at her husband’s ghost and the next minute she yearns to spend ‘one last night together’.

Whilst discussing the clothes he’d like to be buried in, the husband says, “I want my biker jacket, for sentimental reasons”, to which she retorts “I want to get rid of it, for sentimental reasons”.

Soon their daughter arrives, a busy accomplished academic who has a wealthy boyfriend who travels the world in a private jet. There are very comical scenes as the ghost and wife plot how to breakup their daughter’s relationship using direct methods or ‘reverse psychology’. They converse openly, all the while knowing that the daughter cannot see or hear the ghost.

We then get to meet the boyfriend and soon an engagement is announced. From then on, the story is fast paced and culminates in a seemingly happy outcome for all concerned, with everyone finally ‘giving up the ghost’. The issue of euthanasia is tackled respectfully and provides a balanced look at both sides of the argument.

The cast have a lot of fun in this play. Elaine Hudson is the doctor-wife. She displays understanding, wisdom, and frustration as she navigates her way through the mixed feelings towards her husband and events that led up to his passing.

Chris Orchard is the husband-ghost. From the moment he rises from the coffin, he exudes activity and relishes his new ‘life’ after death. There is a poignant moment as he strums the guitar and sings his original work, ‘You will let me go’ to his wife.

The daughter is played by Madeleine Withington. She is torn between accepting a new academic post and the wild lifestyle of her boyfriend, whilst she deals with her mothers’ unfair assumptions about her father.

Andrew Wang plays the billionaire pleasure-seeker who wants the beautiful trophy academic wife but can’t quite slow-down his lifestyle. He brings a lot of technology jargon and props to the role and is perhaps a catalyst in helping his girlfriend’s mum find closure.

The crew and cast have entertained well. I enjoyed the venue for this production, a small, cosy theatre with good vision and acoustics for all.

Giving Up The Ghost deserves to succeed. I highly recommend seeing it at the recently opened ‘Limelight on Oxford’.

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