Earlier reviews had promised 2:22 A Ghost Story was going to be a “spine-tingling night out” and it truly is. And even though I was hoping for a bit more than a “tingle”, the play heavily leans on the humanity of the story – and I should add, the talent of the cast, and that’s where it really triumphs. It’s about much more than ghosts. It explores people’s responses to grief, their beliefs and how those sentiments affect their relationships with others. 

© Helen Murray

We open with Jenny (Laura Whitmore) experiencing paranormal activities for the first time – prepare yourself for a jump-scare from the get-go! In the recently refurbished flat she shares with her husband Sam (Felix Scott), at precisely 2:22 in the morning something inexplicable happens. The next morning, it’s as if nothing even happened.

The couple are having Sam’s university friend, Lauren (Tamsin Carroll), and her boyfriend Ben (Matt Willis) over for dinner. A few witty remarks and one too many wine glasses later, conflict starts: Lauren is clearly still in love with Sam, Sam doesn’t like Ben for his “non-science based” beliefs, Jenny is on the edge about leaving their baby in the room where she swears, she’s heard a ghost… And although the question dividing them on the surface is “are ghosts real or not on the surface, there’s so much more keeping these characters in a constant tug of war where everyone switches places continuously.

The way in which Danny Robins plays with tensions in the script is remarkable. And I use the word “tensions” in the plural because he blends different types and levels of tension throughout the story. We have the rivalry between those who believe in the paranormal and those who don’t, paired with disquieting music and sound effects. We have the human-level animosity caused by personality clashes and feelings from the past, paired with the sympathy for the previous owners of the flat and the possibility of this unknown ghost being mad that they’re literally ripping the memories off the walls. Act Two makes use of commonplace elements of the genre, such as candles, objects catching fire and moving tables, to build up to the climax of the story; and let’s not forget the big red flashing clock on stage counting down to 2:22. All those elements combined will keep you at the edge of your seat, forgetting to breathe. And somehow, with all that at play, Robins still manages to incorporate comedy into the script, frequently through Ben and his very relatable reactions. Matt Willis is effortlessly funny, expanding the range of the play.

The entire new cast are fantastic, with flawless delivery through and through. There are, however, a couple of plot holes I’m still trying to fill (maybe a second visit is needed?). We get no hints to the twist in the end throughout the story, and the narrative would possibly benefit from throwing some baits at the audience to encourage that feeling of a solved puzzle. And some “decorative” dramaturgy, like the random spooky noises they use for scene transitions, also don’t add much besides getting our hearts racing. So don’t go expecting many jump scares, it turns out the story is much more personal than you could predict and by the end, you’re more invested in the characters and their state-of-mind than any possible ghosts haunting the theatre. That’s how well the script ties in the thrill of the paranormal, with the thrill of watching these four very relatable characters discovering harsh truths about themselves and each other together.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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  1. *Potential spoilers!*
    I saw it back in December, so my memory isn’t completely clear but I’m sure there were some clues along the way, cause they kept randomly popping into my head on the way home. Things like Alexa never answering him or the fact he never picks up his cup when they’re playing the drinking game.

  2. A second visit is definitely needed. I saw the original cast at the Noël Coward Theatre last year and was absolutely oblivious. When I saw it a second time earlier this year at the Criterion, I wondered how I could have been this blind during my first visit. It is absolutely a play that reveals even more details on the second visit and I loved to experience it completely different the second time around (though the first time was much much better cast- and delivery wise).

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