Today: April 12, 2024

Ghost Light

A Ghost Light – a solitary lamp that illuminates a venue’s stage when performances are done – is part of a long-standing and rather charming theatrical tradition. Legend says that originally, this night light was for the ghosts of deceased artists, so that they could perform throughout the night. As we speak, countless stages are illuminated by these lights.

Yes, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to keep us all at home and performance venues closed, the craving for theatre and performance in many of us has been insatiable. Thankfully, the wonderful people at EuroArts have been releasing some truly magnificent titles on digital, DVD and Blu-ray, and their latest is an especially timely and powerful watch.

Observing a strict hygiene concept, celebrated ballet dancer, choreographer and director John Neumeier created a new full-length ballet – Ghost Light – for his 55-strong dance ensemble. 

Developed in fragments using small groups and performed by The Hamburg Ballet, the emotional production deals with themes of isolation and other feelings experienced by all of us during the pandemic in an accessible way. Novices – such as myself – need not worry. You do not need to know your Rudolf Nureyev from your Margot Fonteyn to be swept up in this incredibly moving film that acts as something of a tribute to the magic of performance.

I’ll hold my hands up and freely admit that I know next to nothing about ballet, or Franz Schubert (whose music acts as the repertoire, as performed by pianist David Fray), but I was truly mesmerised by this production. It felt like one of the first pieces of lockdown art to truly understand the complex feelings that this pandemic has brought out in all of us. And so, while I cannot comment on the technical side of this performance – there are plenty of aficionados out there who can do that, and I would only embarrass myself – I can speak for its heart. 

This is a beautiful performance that will almost certainly become synonymous with this dark period for me, way down the line. In time, when Covid-19 is but a distant memory, I will certainly remember Ghost Light and its portrayal of this period’s fears and hope. I will spare a thought for all the stages that were illuminated by these solitary lamps, and all the performers who had to stay at home. And I will rejoice that it is all over, and head to the theatre.

I can dream, right?

Ghost Light by John Neumeier is available now on DVD and Blu-ray from EuroArts. For more info on EuroArts and their catalogue, visit their website.

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