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2:22 A Ghost Story is a play that I have heard plenty about over the past couple of years, but never quite got around to seeing. From its successful run at five West End theatres to the all-star casting announcements, Danny Robins’ thriller is now out on tour with direction by Matthew Dunster and Isabel Marr, bringing the fictional story about the paranormal events in Jenny and Sam’s home to life on stage. This week the show is in Canterbury and living just a short walk from The Marlowe Theatre means that I was able to review the show on its opening night. Despite not usually being a fan of thrillers, I was excited to finally find out what the play is about and see how the creative team use staging and special effects to make the audience believe in the unimaginable.
About the play
In my opinion, the less you know before watching 2:22 the better, as you will be totally surprised by the unexpected elements of the production. Nevertheless to briefly summarise, Jenny (Louisa Lytton) notices that some strange events have been happening in her home at the time of 2:22am on consecutive evenings. Much to her husband Sam’s (Nathaniel Curtis) disapproval, when their friends Lauren (Charlene Boyd) and Ben (Joe Absolom) come over for dinner one evening, she encourages the group to stay up until the early hours of the morning to see the haunting actions for themselves. Cue two hours of humour, ghost talk, frightening effects and you have 2:22 A Ghost Story on tour.
A chilling comedy
I didn’t expect the play to be as humorous as it was, from the banter between old friends to the amount of sarcasm within the dialogue. Aside from the prologue and red and black alarm clock lighting, the overall mood onstage doesn’t meet the thriller theme at the start, with the comedy elements taking centre stage. It is a slow burner that builds and grows in tension as the clock nears 2:22am, with an underlying theme of mystery and terror. These undertones draw attention to what the night could potentially have in store, as the characters begin to disagree and the lines between the real and supernatural blur.
In act one I found the pacing a little slow, with much of the drama and anticipation within the show isolated to the second act. Initially focusing on the characters, their relationships and opinions about ghosts does make sense in terms of character and plot development, but an impact of this is the drama being heavily weighted to the latter sections of the show. The play comes across uneven in places and then suddenly builds to a climax at the end of act two, amplifying the thriller theme and moving far away from the humorous moments.
Set design and staging
The production takes place on the ground floor of Jenny and Sam’s new house, which is almost fully renovated. The events occur within the lounge and kitchen diner, upstairs bedrooms and back garden, with a clock positioned above the doorway which leads to the stairway. Presented in the play’s iconic red and black fonts, the clock acts as the timekeeper and pacemaker for the show, illustrating how the events of the night unfold.
The homely set is actually incredibly inviting, aside from the eerie backdoors, the sheds in the garden and the obscured upstairs. These exceptions are cleverly positioned at the back and side of the stage respectively, building intrigue and adding to the drama of the show. Anna Fleischle’s set is a brilliant example of touring stage design, providing regional audiences with a unique perspective of the house that is synonymous with 2:22.
Memorable performances and supernatural effects
The play’s strengths lie in its character performances and the elements of surprise and trickery. Lytton leads the cast with conviction alongside Curtis’ deeply sarcastic and know-it-all Sam. They are supported by the comedic talents of Boyd and Absolom, who both offer a darker side to their acting talents as the production progresses.
The paranormal action on stage varies from subtle to obvious. In places it is so minimal that I missed a couple of Chris Fisher’s illusions, but this does at least offer a welcome contrast to the spooky happenings and effects that are much more akin to the thriller genre. I thoroughly enjoyed the variety in the special effects, which are supported by Lucy Carter’s lighting and Ian Dickinson’s sound design.
A chilling and extremely entertaining production, 2:22 A Ghost Story brilliantly blends its thriller and comedy themes. With plenty of laughter, shock and rushes of adrenaline, local audiences are in for a treat and a surprise (or two!) whilst the show is based in the city. The popular play is in Canterbury until Saturday 16th September, with last minute tickets available on the Marlowe Theatre’s website.
Thanks for reading my blog today.
Love Kat xxxx
*My ticket for 2:22 was gifted in exchange for a review.