As a reviewer, one is constantly balancing the desire to describe a production, with the need to avoid spoilers for those who might wish to attend.
On occasion, I have fallen foul of this ‘tight-rope walk’- often through over-exuberance.
In isolation, they are suitably disturbing; together, and in conjunction with a thoughtful denouement, they form a satisfying experience.
The ‘horror’ genre – especially in a live theatre environment – is one that cannot easily withstand such spoilers. This is because – for the shocks to be effective – the show’s audience needs to ‘hand over’ their ‘fight of flight’ response; in other words, they must be surprised.
With that in mind, I shall strive to give little away when describing the content.
The show starts with parapsychologist ‘Professor Goodman’ (Simon Lipkin) delivering a lecture on unexplained psychic phenomena. In it, he explains – having conducted extensive case studies – his skepticism of ‘supernatural’ phenomena, whilst also sharing the three examples that he couldn’t explain.
These three tales – recounting the interviews of a haunted janitor, a troubled college student, and a stressed financier – form the basis of the ghost stories. In isolation, they are suitably disturbing; together, and in conjunction with a thoughtful denouement, they form a satisfying experience.
Director Sean Holmes conducts events superbly, while Nick Manning’s clever Sound Design works in perfect tandem with James Farncombe’s exquisite Lighting to create – and re-create – just the right atmosphere.
Similarly, Jon Bausor’s Set Design is both flexible and evocative throughout, striking just the right balance between ‘wide-canvas paranoia’, and ‘enclosed-space claustrophobia. Indeed, the ‘deliberately immersive’ aspects of the set carry though into the stalls…and beyond.
The four (credited) actors all perform their sections creditably, yet at a slightly ‘heightened’ intensity, appropriate for both the genre and the show’s time-constraints (90 minutes straight through).
Created by award-winning writers Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, the show’s success does not depend solely upon ‘jump scares’.
[This is just as well for me, as I tend not to be discomfited by conventional ‘it’s behind you’ conceits]
Instead, through classic misdirection – Ghost Stories seeks to plough more…
[Oops, I almost did it again]
Having already enjoyed two successful West End runs, and been made into a lucrative feature-film, Ghost Stories has already entered theatre folklore; on the evidence presented, it’s no surprise as to why that is.
On a side note, at the performance I attended, both Dyson and Nyman took part in one of the more entertaining Q&A sessions I’ve witnessed.
They were funny, insightful, inspiring and warm.
When asked to share what he found most ‘scary’, Nyman lamented that the ‘closing-off’ of debate and the fear of sharing and expressing individual ideas was the most frightening of developments in these fractured and divisive times.
Indeed… it’s enough to make you scream.