By Isabella Fraser
Lydia Nicholson, the writer and sole performer of this piece, is a dry-witted, funny and very pale Australian. In this play she is Lydia, dead for over two years and learning how to haunt people. We, the audience, are part of this group and Lydia, as a friendly ghost, teaches us a few lessons on how to be prepared for being dead.
There is a quiet gentleness to this production. Nicholson is a warm and engaging performer and audience interaction is not scary or challenging, even if sometimes the audience is unsure how to respond. There is also an understated humour in this piece – Lydia’s tips for preparation include: ‘wear comfortable clothing’ (you have to wear it for all eternity) and ‘always carry change’ (to pay the ferryman).
We learn a little about Lydia’s life before dying: she was a fun-loving, say-what-you-think kind of person who lived life as she wanted. However, we never really find out how she died – there are hints to a place where her parents cannot pass by, but no more than that. The tips are practical, although there are brief moments where real pathos arises, particularly when discussing the people that you leave behind. Nicholson keeps the chat as upbeat as possible however; her demonstration of what people expect a ghost to look like – and yes, it does involve a white sheet – is very funny and she can do the perfect ‘woooh-oooo’ ghost noise (we all got to join in).
Some of the humour is lost in translation by the use of Australian slang (although there are enough giggles in the audience to realize that Nicholson is not the only Australian in the room). However, we can gather the gist of what is being said – that once you are dead, you are dead. Try not to have regrets, be ready for anything, and say what you mean. As Lydia begins to fade, there is an amusing scene where a psychic contacts her.
Looking at some typical fears of death and the afterlife, this is a genial foray into the ‘what ifs…’ While this never really delves into the darker side of death, it is still an enjoyable and entertaining show.
I’m Not Pale I’m Dead runs until 25 August at Assembly Hall at 19.00. Running time is 55 mins.