If there was one thing that nearly all of us have experienced together (apart from living through a global pandemic of course), it’ll have to be hearing strange noises at night (and jumping to absurd conclusions almost immediately!). In Danny Robins’ new play ‘2:22 A Ghost Story’, we witness a group of friends investigate the source of strange noises that can be heard in their house at 2:22 am every night, trying to ascertain if it’s just an elaborate hoax conjured by chance or a genuine occurrence that seemingly defies reason and logic. Directed by Matthew Dunster, this is one show that keeps you on the edge of your seat with its spellbinding production and design elements, as well as strong performances by the ensemble.
The story concerns the lives of Jenny (Lily Allen) and Sam (Hadley Fraser), two young parents who have recently relocated to a new home. After hearing a series of strange sounds at the same time every single night, Jenny is convinced their house is haunted, whilst Sam dismisses this assertion as unfounded fears that could be explained away with logic. One evening, they are joined for dinner by Sam’s old friend Lauren (Julia Chan) and her new partner Ben (Jake Wood) who are not so quick to dismiss the paranormal happenings Jenny has witnessed and agree to stay back until 2:22 am to witness the sounds themselves. As the clock ticks away into the early morning, secrets are revealed and confessions are made that drive the group further apart. When a series of seemingly unexplainable events happen, the group must confront their beliefs and scepticism about the paranormal as well as their preconceptions about each other to get to the bottom of the mystery.
This show marks the West End debut of singer-songwriter Lily Allen, who manages to carve out a distinct presence in a formidable ensemble of seasoned actors and deliver a measured performance as Jenny. Hadley Fraser’s portrayal of the rational, logic-driven Sam allows the story to move forward by being the voice of reason in the group. Julia Chan, who also makes her West End debut, delivers a nuanced performance as Lauren, and brings forth her character’s inner dilemmas with refreshing honesty. Jake Wood brings a lot of humour to this spooky evening as Ben, whose brash opinions and simple upbringing builds the group’s larger belief in the supernatural. Whilst Dunster’s direction allows the distinct personalities of these characters to shine through cleverly manufactured moments and ‘looks’ shared on stage, there are parts where the lengthy dialogue and foreshadowing of a big reveal risks being reductionist of the larger theme, and audiences start to fiddle around whilst waiting for the next big twist. The on-stage talent is supported by a stellar production design which is the biggest standout of this show. Anna Fleischle’s set is absolutely remarkable, allowing us to be drawn into the show’s every day, domestic setting whilst instilling a feeling of uneasiness in us. Lucy Carter’s light design and Ian Dickson’s sound design brings much of the supernatural “shock” in the story, through dazzling, surprising transitions that literally make audiences gasp in their seats. With an unassuming set-up to the show’s central plot and a deeply surprising final reveal, Robins’ writing breathes fresh life into the haunted house genre through sharp dialogue and well-crafted characters.
To summarize, 2:22 A Ghost Story is a thrilling exploration of a family’s struggle with the supernatural, and how their attempt to discover the demons that walk around them leads them to confront the ones they hold inside.
2:22 A Ghost Story runs at the Noel Coward Theatre WC2N 4AP until 16th October. Learn more and book tickets at https://222aghoststory.com/
Reviewer: Gaurav Singh Nijjer
Reviewed: 11th August 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★