Ghost Stories by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman

Lyric Hammersmith

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.

NEED TO KNOW: Ghost Stories is at the Lyric Hammersmith until 11 May 2019 | BOOK TICKETS