The Positively Last Performance
The Theatre Royal, Seashaw, has been closed for two years and mould is wreaking havoc with the décor. Only ghosts live here now; a motley crowd from mousy librarian Miss Melluish, drowned in a storm surge in 1808, to Mikey the Mod, killed by a gang of rockers in the 1960s. No ghost has ever ventured out of the theatre; they don’t admit it, but they’re too frightened. Then something happens. Mr and Mrs Walter and their daughter Gracie arrive, hoping to bring the theatre back to its former glory.
The ghosts are thrilled but no-one can see or hear them – except Gracie. Soon she’s pestering the ghosts with unwelcome questions and disturbing old and painful memories. Reluctantly, they begin to tell their stories and a wealth of sadness and tragedy emerges. But they also hold important information about the theatre – some of it vital to the Walters’ renovation project. But can Gracie get her parents to listen?
I enjoyed this. Geraldine McCaughrean always writes interestingly, and this book is no exception. I loved the way the ghosts’ stories gradually reveal the history of Seashaw and its theatre: the excitement of the arrival of bathing machines in the early 1800s, the Victorian funfair with the brightly-coloured wooden horses on the carousel, George Sanger’s menagerie wintering in the town (every evening, the lion was taken for a walk along the shore), the TB hospital and so on. It’s wonderfully evocative of a vanished way of life.
However, what this book is really about is coming to terms with the tragedies of the past. Seashaw has changed: there are no rockers now to murder Mikey a second time. It is safe for the ghosts to jettison their old fears and move on. Imaginative children of 11 plus should enjoy this book. Recommended.