Musicals & Opera review: The Poltergeist of Cock Lane

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Edinburgh Festival Fringe: The title may nudgingly indicate some ribald humour, but this new musical is based on a real historical curiosity; the only time in legal history that a murder case was tried with evidence from a ghost.

C (Venue 34)

***

Set in 1761, Tim Connery’s book and lyrics chart the rise in fortunes of a dissolute landlord (enthusiastically played by Alex Dee) who exploits the – apparently real – poltergeist activity in his lodgings for financial gain. However, the unquiet spirit hints at murder and the shadow of suspicion falls on the husband of Francesca Kent (Portia Criswick) who died in the room the haunting emanates from.

While the tone of this production from Putney Light Opera Society veers from comic to tragic to romantic it never feels too unbalanced given its intriguing plot. Similarly, the music by Steven Geraghty swings from the occasionally anachronistic bass-heavy light rock (which works surprisingly well) to more conventional Sondheim-style modern operetta.

The songs work best when the whole ensemble lend their voices to the number, but the stand-out performance – fittingly – comes from Criswick as the murdered woman whose voice soars over the proceedings and provides this ambitious piece with a solid emotional core.

Until 12 August. Today 4:05pm.