28 November 2023
The ghost genre is one which is fairly thin on the ground theatrically speaking. ‘The Woman in Black’ has proved successful through its longevity, various versions of ‘The Turn of the Screw’ are to be found – the one I reviewed a few years ago was a disaster – and then there are the comedy plays, the classic ‘Blithe Spirit’ to the fore.
When it opened in 2021, ‘2:22 – A Ghost Story’ seemed to hit a nerve immediately and garnered praise from press and audience alike – it also became one of those productions which has an ever-changing cast. Now on the road, it offers just something a bit different.
Danny Robins – a specialist in matters paranormal – has created an effective enough script which plays with the audience visually and aurally. Jenny has been hearing things in her new house whilst husband Sam has been away on business. When friend Lauren comes to dinner with her new boyfriend Ben, Jenny explains what has been going on and how she fears for her baby daughter who appears to be at the centre of the ‘goings on’.
The play is presented in cracking style with a vivid bright red neon frame around the set which, used in conjunction with a loud and gut-wrenching scream bridges the gap between scenes as a large digital clock counts down to the titular time; a very effective piece of staging which engages the audience immediately. The set itself is excellently realised; an open-plan, half-remodelled living area; lofty ceiling and sliding patio doors – it is full of interest.
Following the short opening prologue the following wordy scene is presented naturalistically as the quartet speak over each other; it is possibly unnecessary to hear everything, but it disengages the viewer. The use of a baby monitor and a crying child adds a level of spookiness and throughout there are strange happenings which are punctuated by discussions of the paranormal etc etc. An undertone comes and goes throughout to add atmosphere.
The whole is effective enough and you realise there must be some twist/explanation by the end and, indeed, there is, to some extent. If you pay attention, you can follow some of the clues to what has happened – no spoilers here – but you are left with plenty of questions which are not so easily answered and this may be a deliberate ploy of the writer.
Louisa Lytton is very fine as the frustrated wife and mother who is caught up in an unexplainable nightmare and Nathaniel Curtis is very plausible as her husband who prefers to answer everything with his scientific expertise. Joe Absolom rather steals the show as the slightly boorish boyfriend who has some mediumistic skills. Charlene Boyd is rather less convincing as the increasingly drunk friend whose life has not progressed as planned. None of the characters have much charisma so there is no real emotional involvement with them and, to a degree, the only one you care about is the baby.
There are some good production values and amidst the shocks are some comedy moments – though I was at a loss to understand the number of laughs the audience chose to emit.
It is refreshing to see something unfamiliar, but the characters only offer a superficial level of interest. All that being said, I would certainly recommend the play as it may be many years before another ghost story of its kind appears on stage and this has a decent amount going for it.
A repeat viewing? Possibly, if only to try and unravel more of the plot pointers, but little else of interest is offered.
Cast & Creatives
Ben – Joe Absolom
Lauren – Charlene Boyd
Sam – Nathaniel Curtis
Jenny – Louisa Lytton
Company – Natalie Boakye, Grant Kilburn
Writer – Danny Robins
Directors – Matthew Dunster, Isabel Marr
Set Designer – Anna Fleischle
Costume Designer – Cindy Lin
Lighting Design – Lucy Carter
Sound Design – Ian Dickinson
Illusions – Chris Fisher
Image – Johan Persson