Founded in 1844 in an area of little water and fewer prospects by Robert Birnam, the fortune of Birnam Mines was a gold nugget large enough to choke a child, Birnam’s own young son, and that atmosphere of tragedy haunted the town over the following decades as it grew to a population big enough to support adultery and murder who then died in a terrible winter storm which cut them off for from civilisation for weeks.
Not a ghost town in the strictest sense in that it is not totally deserted, sole survivor Jack still resides as caretaker, fifty years later Birnam Mine has been bought by a Los Angeles based crypto bro for $50,000 sight unseen until he travels through the desert and takes a room at what once was the Rosewood Hotel, learning the stories of the town from Jack but waking every morning at the entrance to the mine, called in his dreams to penetrate its depth.
Written and performed by Asher Muldoon and directed by Sabina Jafri, Mine is billed as “a solo ghost story musical,” though that is something of a stretch, Muldoon accompanying himself on guitar several times through variations on the same single song until the final scene when he takes the plunge and moves his capo from fourth to second and changes from fingerpicking to strumming.
Muldoon only leaving the stage to use the wider space twice as the lights drop and he explores the mine by torchlight, what should be heart of the piece is rushed, galloping through the dialogue rather than emphasising the cold dampness of the air, the uneven rock beneath, the weight of the unseen mountain above, Mine a show of potential buried deep and yet to be tapped, where the shadows offer more than the light.
The history of Birnam Mine more interesting than the present, so are Jack and his stories more engaging than the bland narrator who states he is “not one of those LA guys,” confirming he is indeed precisely one of those LA guys, his late-introduced own tragic backstory so preposterous as to be akin to the fantasies created by narcissists to justify their inevitably selfish behaviour, the Mine in danger of collapse because it is difficult to feel empathy with someone you don’t trust who can throw away a fortune on a whim.
Mine: A Solo Ghost Story Musical has concluded its run at theSpace at Surgeon’s Hall