The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde

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BBC Radio 7, 11-13 November 2009
A satire of Victorian melodrama, a comedy of manners focusing on the clash of values between British tradition and American pragmatism, and a sentimental celebration of the power of love, The Canterville Ghost is a real melange of a tale. Perhaps wisely, this reading by impressionist-turned-straight actor Alistair McGowan did not try to impose any unity on the tale. McGowan began by contrasting the machinations of the ghost Sir Simon Canterville with the rank indifference of the Otis family, who had bought Canterville Hall and determined to turn it into a modern-day Xanadu (pace William Randolph Hearst), complete with all mod cons. The ghost's presence for them was merely an irritation - or an excuse for the two youngest Otis twins to devise a series of practical jokes designed to inconvenience the ghost. These included setting booby-traps, stretching pieces of twine across the corridor in the hope of tripping him up, or impersonating ghosts themselves. Sir Simon's attempts to frighten the boys became more and more frenzied; he adopted a variety of disguises (each announced with due ceremony, as a presenter of Victorian melodrama might have done), but none of them had the slightest effect. Worn out with frustration, Sir Simon retired defeated to his eyrie, where he encountered Virginia, the Otis's daughter.
It was at this point that the story's tone radically changed, as the ghost admitted that he was desperately hoping to die, but could not do so as he believed that God would no longer look favourably on him. Virginia convinced him otherwise; the two of them prayed together and Sir Simon was at last guaranteed his wish. McGowan's tone at this point became paternal, almost as if he were telling a bedtime story with a moral to it for the benefit of his offspring. In Victorian times this kind of tale might have been popular; but it seemed to me that Wilde had deliberately blunted his own satiric purpose in pursuit of a happy ending. 
Nonetheless The Canterville Ghost provided an entertaining diversion, and proved once again that Wilde remains the master of the telling epigram.