Sam Wu Is NOT Afraid of Ghosts

Sam Wu is absolutely NOT a scaredy-cat (no matter what his school chums might say). When a trip to the Space Museum goes terrifyingly wrong, Sam begins a mission to prove everyone that he is a fearless space adventurer.

Returning to the Polka Theatre for this relaxed performance of Sam Wu is NOT Afraid of Ghosts was a treat. The environment created by all staff and volunteers is one of warmth and welcome, aided of course by the beautiful space in which it is set. Having just reopened their outdoor play area in time for the nice weather, it is a wonderful place for children of any ages to explore, learn, and enjoy. 

This new production (and first ever stage adaptation of Katie and Kevin Tsang's best-selling book) was indeed also warm and welcoming, with colours just as bright as the fun-filled foyer you enter through. Polka’s previous shows have set expectations rather high on all accounts, and there is cause for argument that this one might not quite meet them.

At its best, it is a delightful display of friendship, life lessons, and self belief. During the slower moments though, it could be described as a little lagging or bland. Now it is important to note that the website states there will be ‘flashing lights, Ioud noises, the use of haze, and short blackouts’ which I should imagine are to contribute to the air of tension and strife throughout the hour’s show. 

But as this was a relaxed performance, those elements were massively toned down (if not completely removed). This makes sense for the intended audience and their possible access requirements and, as a neurodivergent person myself, I regularly rely on these accommodations to be able to visit the theatre safely. It should not, however, detract from the overall experience or change the show so drastically that our visit is totally different to those who attended the day before; having spoken to previous audience members and reading other’s accounts (the privilege of visiting further into the run) it seems this is exactly what's happened. 

It must be said that the creative team did a great job in their respective departments - with Gillian Tan’s lighting and video design as the saving grace in a few awkward moments. These were typically still or too quiet, where it felt some more action was needed. 

A superb effort from all the cast was the highlight of the show, with each actor bringing something new to the stage. Sam Liu plays our protagonist with flair and confidence, never wavering from his somewhat camp interpretation of a kind little guy doing his best to make something of himself. He is joined by pals Kudzai Mangombe and Ed Cooke - a loveable duo of completely opposite friends who are happy to get their hands stuck in if it means helping out! And lastly the hilarious Yuki Sutton gets up to all sorts of mischief. This is impressive on such a small stage with some large (and brilliant) set pieces* to work around, before then considering the fact she plays 3 characters with quick changes into a new costume* almost every time she exits into the wings!  

*Both of these aspects were designed by Liam Bunster who clearly knew exactly how to make this possible.

Running well into the school holidays, Sam Wu is a great option for those families who might prefer a less intense or exciting day out for their younger ones. Spending your summer at places like the Polka is guaranteed to have you leaving with a smile. 

This show was reviewed on the 4th July 2024 at the Polka Theatre, London where it runs until the 18th August 2024.  Tickets available here: Polka Sam Wu is NOT Afraid of Ghosts (

Review written by Katie Anna McConnell


Photo credit: Steve Gregson

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