The Ghostlight League: Shakespeare Ghostbusters {Melbourne International Comedy Festival} – Theatre Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

What happens when you take a 400-year-old playwright and an 80s classic action-comedy film and smash them together? Set as a comedy and written by the Coincidence Men and Directed by Rob Lloyd, this is not the first time the team at The Ghostlight League have tackled such a merriment stories. Having previously produced Shakespeare Aliens, the creators have returned to this years Melbourne International Comedy Festival with Shakespeare Ghostbusters!

Hosted at the St. Martins Youth Arts Centre, I was greeted by the sound of medieval style covers of popular songs, grabbed some refreshments, and waited for the theatre to open. Upon entering the performance space, a neon green projection was displayed on the rear of the stage. It was Slimer, but he had a frilly ruffled Elizabethan collar around his neck. The medieval themed covers continued to play as The Narrator, Rik Brown, warmly boomed a welcome to us and directed us to our seats.

Introducing the show, Brown sets the scene, of “sprites gone awry”, our four heroes and how they believe they can “bust your ghost”. Opening in the “Library Public”, a poor woman played by Tam Dahmen who is greeted by a sprite (ghost). The opening scene gave us a feel of what the rest of the night entailed and I was already laughing. Excited for what was to come, I sat with bated breath (sorry, not sorry).

Shakespeare Ghostbusters is not a full re-enactment of the original film but it does pull from the key moments and plot points to condense it into an 80-minute show.  It packs enough of the film in to still make sense, including most of the funny moments. Afterall, this is a Shakespeare style comedy.

The cast of this production are all incredible in their respective roles consisting of our four heroes: Danny McGinlay as the suave Dr Peter Venkman, Elysia (Elly) Janssen as the nerdy Dr Egon Spengler, Rob Lloyd as the loud and adorably humorous Ray Stantz, and Zac Rose as Winston Zeddemore.

Tam Dahmen impresses as multiple side characters including her more prominent roles of Janine Melnitz and Gozer. Cassandra Hart is smouldering and captivating as Dana Barrett, made famous by Sigourney Weaver. Corey M. Glamuzina stuns in the multi-character role of Dean Yeager, Louis Tully and others. Our Narrator played by Rick Brown also portrays a surprise character is commanding from start to finish. And of course, a Ghostlight League production wouldn’t be complete without super talented puppeteer, Donna Prince.

This particular Shakespeare-esque production is not as Shakespearean as I thought it would be. Yes, there are themes that tie back into the style and the use of medieval music does lean into the era, but the dialogue itself isn’t very Shakespearean. Aside from the odd switcheroo of words, like “Busters of Ghost”, the script is closer to the film dialogue than it is to a Shakespeare style creation. This is not entirely a bad thing, as the whole show is still damn hilarious, it is just on the lighter side of Shakespeare than you might think, which would be a friendly beginning for some who have never attended a Shakespearean play before. This is more due to the script supplied than the production itself.

As for the comedy, well, the original piece is an absolute classic and the writers kept all of the key moments, including highlighting some plot holes and lack of a certain character’s lines in the original film. However, the key highlight for me would be the bad puns from Elly’s Dr Egon Spengler. Starting with the expulsion of the team from the university by Dean Yeager, Spengler exclaims “Fellows, we hath been…. Yeager bombed!”. The cast break character, running onto the stage, expressing how horrified they were with the joke and demand booing from the audience. I for one loved it but played along. These puns continued throughout the show, and the audience began to cheer more than boo, much to the dislike of the cast and I found enjoyment in disappointing them.

Ghostbusters wouldn’t be complete without the iconic uniforms and Proton Packs and instead of replicating them from the original film, the creators decided to borrow from the original animated series ‘The Real Ghostbusters’.

All the props are handmade and are incredibly detailed. The P.K.E. Meter has an antenna that actually moves and there’s even a Ghost Trap that opens and closes. The Proton Packs are bright blue and really pop in the dark performance space. The uniforms are more like a formal three-piece suit, each with a vest that has the logo and name tag sewn in. Also from the animated series, each of the four main characters have a different coloured shirt under. Again, to add more colour. The choice to use the animation as inspiration for the props and costuming is a brilliant one. The original film is very monochromatic and whilst they look great, more colour is always the better option.

There is one thing that production company The Ghostlight League do brilliantly and that is the puppetry and design of said puppets. Created by the phenomenal Donna Prince, who also made all the props, there are three puppets in this production. First being Slimer complete with his bubble-butt and his own ruff collar. This puppet is so detailed, life-like and is highly effective within the production. But the best would have to be the two hellhounds of The Gatekeeper and The Keymaster. Each are both terrifying and impressive, complete with red light up eyes and of course ruff collars. Prince is a master at creating these additional characters for this show as these puppets are incredible.

As for the performances, each cast member is fantastic and collectively embody their respective characters perfectly. I loved Elly’s portrayal of Egon, from the body language to the way she spoke was Egon to a tee. Plus, the bad (or good) puns were fantastic and delivered with such a straight face. Danny McGinlay’s Peter Venkman, Rob Lloyd’s Ray Stantz and Zac Rose’s round out the Busters of Ghosts wonderfully. Cassandra Hart, Tam Dahmen and Rick Brown are great in their respective roles as well.

However, the clear standout of this production would be Corey M. Glamuzina in their multi-character performance. Notably, their portrayal of Walter Peck and the innocent, nerdy and needy Louis Tully. The voice and physicality brought to this role by Glamuzina is flawless. I could swear each of the characters that they take on are performed by a completely different person. Such a stellar performance from Glamuzina.

Whilst Shakespeare Ghostbusters isn’t the full Shakespearean experience, it has enough references and dialogue to pass as a Shakespearean play. But the references and re-enactments of the original film are so good, the misgivings aren’t bad. I had an absolute blast experiencing this new production and I cannot wait to see what The Ghostlight League create next!

The Ghostlight League’s Shakespeare Ghostbusters is performing for two more nights at St Martin’s Theatre in South Yarra. Friday the 12th and Saturday the 13th of April, both at 8:30pm.
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