Inspired by true events, When Darkness Falls is set on the island of Guernsey on a stormy night. A young paranormal expert (Thomas Dennis) and a skeptical history teacher (Tony Timberlake) sit down to record the first of a series of podcasts inspired by the island’s folklore and paranormal history. In this deeply descriptive delve into four stories the speaker shares, the historian just may be swayed into believing in the paranormal.

Credit: Pamela Raith

With a set designed by Justin Williams, we are introduced into the chaotic world – document files, pinned paper cuttings, and endless boxes – of John Blondel, the doubting historian. A hanging light focuses on a table set center stage with a podcast display and two chairs, signifying a story ready to be received. This stagnant set, feeling limited to options of movement, makes for the words to be the main focus of this production.

Written by James Milton and Paula Morrissey, the script begins with some well thought-out comedic moments that I was pleasantly surprised with. We see the ice being broken of our two opposing characters before the main stories woven with depth are told, and they are complimented immensely with underscore sound design by Ollie Durant which really helps to set the mood and feeling that the tales are trying to create.

Credit: Pamela Raith

Mixing storytelling and reenactment, the direction by Morrissey is well done, accompanied by visual representation to help us keep track of the narrative. Bethany Gupwell does a great job with the lighting design in transforming the space with sharp focuses and experimental angles, which really benefits the overall piece with a nostalgic ghost story/campfire feel that a thrilling story will be told. Dennis delivers a gripping, engaging performance with belief in all he says. He is well-complimented with Timberlake’s shifts in listening to the tales, unfolding and reacting as we are in the audience. Both characters’ intensity increase throughout the performance, showing a different side to the one we are first introduced to.

Although the actors are clearly talented and try hard to grasp the attention of the audience, I found myself not as gripped as I wanted to be in a show that could be filled with anticipation and fear. Instead, the loud storm noises were the only instances that I jumped, and this was repeated a number of times which, just like the story, became predictable. There are too many hints and giveaways from the writing way too early on. Even with multiple arrays of theatrics to aid the ghost stories, there was no point in which I was on the edge of my seat or felt surprised by the outcome.

Credit: Pamela Raith

As for a ghost story being staged, the only unique part about this production is its set around a podcast. The rest feels unoriginal, with competition from other recent ghost-based performances that unfortunately fade this one into the background. It is a shame that this show fell flat as I see the possible potential, if only it didn’t have such predictability to the overall outcome. The saying ‘less is more’ is one this show should take on board when revisiting it.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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

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