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10 Minutes With... The Canterville Ghost co-director Toby Mitchell

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Toby Mitchell, co-director of Tall Stories’ The Canterville Ghost, has a chat with us about what audiences can expect from this spookily spectacular show …

What is The Canterville Ghost about and what can audiences expect?

The show is based on the much-loved short novel by Oscar Wilde, which involves a new family moving into an old haunted house and realising that the ghost is more scared of them than they are of him. Audiences can expect music, magic and mirth – and a great story!

Can you tell us a little bit about the characters?

There are two sets of characters! The story has the Canterville Ghost himself (a slightly faded but still showy ghost), Mrs Umney (an eccentric housekeeper) and the Otis family (including two mischievous children). Then there are the Victorian music-hall performers who tell us the story – a talented singer/compere, a mysterious magician, a hilarious ventriloquist and a skilled psychic.

What inspired you to tell the story with four very different performers and skill-sets?

We wanted to use characters from Oscar Wilde’s era to produce a play within a play. They all have something in common with their main role as music hall performers, which adds extra meaning and fun!

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Each actor had to learn a new skill for their character. How difficult did everyone find it?

We certainly set them a challenge. We basically told them, “learn live accompaniment/magic/ventriloquism/psychic skills in two months!” But they all rose to it magnificently. They’re an annoyingly talented bunch!

Being a spooky story, how did you adapt The Canterville Ghost to be funny and full of music?

When we worked on ideas for the show with our actors, designers and composers, all sorts of amazing things came up! We kept the most entertaining ideas in the finished show – and the ones that fitted best with the characters.

Adults and older children can both enjoy The Canterville Ghost and it’s the kind of story that Tall Stories specialises in. What are the key ingredients of a truly family show?

Never talk down to anyone! In essence, we aim to tell great stories in exciting ways, keeping everyone, of all ages, on board.

One of the characters is a ventriloquist with a very lively dummy, which is the source of some humour in the show. Were there any ventriloquism-based mischief in rehearsals or did the dummy (and the ventriloquist!) behave himself?

One lunchtime, Matt (the ventriloquist) was on his own in the rehearsal room. He propped up the dummy next to a curtain and then hid behind it. He waited for the rest of us to come in – at which point the dummy magically came to life and scared the life out of us!

The Canterville Ghost might not be one of the ghosts of Christmas past, present or future but do you think Ebenezer Scrooge might have taken some festive messages from this show?

I think the show would have put a wide smile on even Ebenezer Scrooge’s face!


For a night of ghostly festive fun, be sure to catch The Canterville Ghost from Tue 18 Dec. Tickets can be purchased here.

If you’re not brave enough to face the ghoulish Canterville Ghost, why not try Wilde Creatures? Tall Stories’ show for children 5-105 is showing here until Dec 30! More info here.

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