Whatever your view on the existence of ghosts, things that go bump in the night have proved lucrative for writer/broadcaster Danny Robins of late: a successful podcast that’s now been adapted for television, a book, a 27-date theatre tour based on the TV show and now a tour for this contemporary ghost story that ran successfully in the West End, picking up a trio of WhatsOnStage awards and Olivier nominations. The benevolent spirits are certainly smiling on him.
And the plaudits are well deserved because this is a well-acted and efficiently staged production, even if I found the denouement a little underwhelming.
Young upwardly mobile couple Sam and Jenny, parents of a new baby and owners of a new house, are entertaining Sam’s old university friend Lauren and her boyfriend Ben. The relaxed conversation flows but a note of tension is introduced when Jenny reveals that while Sam has been away on a trip to the Channel Islands she has experienced what she believes to be a supernatural phenomenon. Starting with noises over the baby monitor and reaching a disturbing peak with footsteps and the sound of an adult crying coming from the nursery — all happening at the same time every night, 2:22.
Sam (Nathaniel Curtis) with his background in science is ready to poo-poo the whole idea believing that everything will have a rational explanation. But Jenny (Louisa Lytton) is convinced that something unexplained and more spiritual is happening in their home, and driven to the point of almost hysteria by her husband’s lack of empathy and fears for her baby, insists that they all stay up until 2:22 to witness the event for themselves.
The night wears on with everyone offering their theories on the possibility of ghosts existence, or not. Tensions increase, emotions become heightened — aided by liberal amounts of booze, especially in the case of Lauren (Charlene Boyd), secrets are revealed and there is seemingly poltergeist activity that even the increasingly smug Sam finds difficult to explain away.
Jenny at least finds a sympathetic ear in Ben (Joe Absolom) who it transpires has past spiritual experiences of his own. There’s even a touch of class war resentment when Ben, who has grown up in the area, has a pop at couples like Sam and Jenny coming in and gentrifying the neighbourhood.
This is a well-staged production with Ian Dickinson’s sound design providing plenty of jump moments. As the climax approaches we even get some thunder. Where would a good ghost story be without some thunder?
Acting from the cast of four is uniformly good, with Louisa Lytton and Joe Absolom particularly outstanding.
That said, while there are what might be clues or red herrings along the way to keep us guessing, the ending when it came didn’t surprise me at all. Perhaps it’s a consequence of getting older and having watched too many films and plays but there seems to be no new stories and every “twist ending” has been done somewhere before. However, there were enough gasps and “I didn’t see that coming” from the majority of the audience to recommend this as an entertaining and worthwhile watch. And even for an old cynic like me the streets seemed particularly dark as I walked back to the car.
Reviewer: Tony Peters