2:22 A Ghost Story

The great British public love a good ghost story as evidenced by the huge amount of supernatural programmes on our TV or even the sheer volume of podcasts about the topic. I am no different but of course my preferred method of ghost story consumption is watching them on stage.

2:22 A Ghost Story initially opened in July 2021 and it transferred from the Noel Coward to the Gielgud and onto the Criterion and then onto the Lyric and finally landing at the Apollo, each with a different 4 celebrities making up the cast. However the early closure of Opening Night at the Gielgud meant that the show seized another opportunity to head back into the west end for a limited 10 week run. Despite all of it’s previous iterations I had not managed to see it so I was excited to finally see this show on stage.

The story revolves around couple Jenny and Sam who have just brought and renovated a new house. Sam has recently returned from a work trip and he returns as they are hosting a dinner party for Sam’s university friend, Lauren and her new boyfriend Ben. During the party Jenny reveals that for the last 4 nights at 2:22 she has been hearing footsteps and other ghostly phenomena within the house and despite Sam’s protests that there will be a logical explanation she persuades her dinner guests to stay until this time.

The book by Danny Robins is good at building tension as well as an intriguing look into the relationship dynamics portrayed on stage. As the story unravels it cleverly causes us all to retrace our steps for the night, combing over clues that we missed along the way. 2:22 A Ghost Story does provide a few jump scares however this is more reliant on sound effects and lighting than it is the tension in the book and the method soon grows familiar. The show is far better at being a well written ghost story than it is at being a scare fest.

Stacey Dooley joins a long line of celebrities making their theatrical debut in this show and she plays Jenny, a new mother, clearly exhausted and terrified by the goings on in her house. The character doesn’t seem a million miles away from how Dooley would be in placed in a similar scenario but Dooley is convincing in this role, pitching it well. She avoids the trap of coming across as hysterical but rather a mother and wife on the verge of a breakdown, struggling to cope with her relationship failing as much as the ghostly activity. She really helped draw the audience in and create the feeling that we were intimate observers to the dinner party.

Joe McFadden played Sam and he has a difficult task as his character has many unlikeable traits, speaking over his wife and a constant determination to be proved right. McFadden’s acting background however has served him well and he comes across as remarkably natural in the role. Playing Sam’s school friend Lauren is Donna Air. Lauren is a hard character to decipher as there are many unanswered questions about her. Whilst for the majority of the play her feelings for Sam are designed to be implied, Air’s portrayal and body language is clear, making me question just how and why Jenny would welcome her into her house. This aside Air starts out strong but as she descends into intoxication her stumbling around becomes less believable.

James Buckley returns to the role of Ben, a believer with a history steeped in supernatural. He provides not only the role of someone to lead the charge into the supernatural world but also provides social commentary on gentrification. Buckley is dynamic on stage, bringing energy and pace to the piece which can otherwise be lacking at times.

The set is inside the home that Jenny and Sam are in the process of redecorating, you can see the brand new doors and skylights in stark contrast with the half painted wall and peeling wallpaper as it is clear that this house is a work in process, peeling back and then covering up the layers. Situated within the set is a clock, counting up to the time of 2:22 which helps keep the audience on track in terms of where we are throughout the show as well as helping in build up the tension.

2:22 A Ghost Story is a well written thriller which shows just why ghost stories remain so firmly at the heart of the British psyche, whilst the jump scares may be basic the rest of the writing helps this to be overlooked and provides for a chilling night at the theatre.

2:22 A Ghost Story is on at the Gielgud Theatre until 4th August. You can find out more on their website here.

If you like this review you might also like my review of The Enfield Haunting, Woman in Black and Witness for The Prosecution.

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