Collection of 13 Ghost Stories is Intimate, Mysterious, and Masterful
The Ghost Project, a documentary solo show by Karie Richards, is deeply intimate storytelling. Starting in 2017, Richards began conversations with friends (and eventually friends of friends) about whether anyone had ever had an experience with the spirit world (read: had a ghost story to share). In response, many a story came floating her way. The culmination of these conversations comes together here.
Having previously worked on documentaries, Richards took a similar approach when creating this show. She recorded the ghost experiences as told to her, and then transcribed the dialogue. From there, she arranged thirteen unique encounters, one after the other, with director Jeff Culbert.
Richards gets into character for each story and performs a series of monologues, using only verbatim excerpts from the interviews. In this regard, her storytelling is masterful. She alternates between thirteen different characters in 75 minutes, and does so with apparent ease. Her storytelling feels particularly intimate, as if you’re actually sitting down with a friend, and they’re telling you about the strangest encounter they’ve ever had.
The stories themselves are great. They’re entirely varied in their intensity (i.e. spook factor), but each feels detailed and sincere. Whether or not you believe the stories is an entirely separate matter, but it does seem as though everyone who shared their stories believed their experiences to be as they perceived them, which adds a layer of tenderness to the show.
My favourite stories in the collection were also entirely different, narrative-wise. Some involved benevolent spirits, lingering in former family homes or work places, while others involved more malevolent spirits, staking out their old haunts. Other stories were centered around more immediate deaths, where it seemed the spirit had a message to deliver before they could move on.
Perhaps my favourite story of all involved a toddler who seemed to encounter her grandfather’s hard but well-intentioned spirit. He had been estranged from his own daughter before his death. He appeared to his granddaughter, as it’s told, to encourage her to ask her mother to cook with less salt. The child had never known her grandfather, and didn’t know that the bane of his existence had been salt, based on his life’s research. The idea of a distant but scientifically-minded father coming back in spirit form, unable to stop himself from reminding his daughter to watch her sodium intake seemed out there, to be sure, but was also oddly touching.
On the whole, The Ghost Project is a masterful performance by Richards. If you can step into the space and indulge the mystery of it all, I think you’ll have as marvelous a time as I did.
- The Ghost Project runs until January 26, 2020 at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West)
- The show runs Tuesday to Saturday at 7pm, with additional matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2pm
- Tickets are $18 for students, $20 for arts workers, and $30 for all other adults
- Tickets are available online, or in person at the box office
- The show runs for approximately 75 minutes
Photo of Karie Richards by Tanja Tiziana