Review: 2:22 A Ghost Story (Tour)
There’s nothing worse than not being believed. Then having to explain over and over, growing increasingly more desperate to have your feelings validated.
Photo by Johan Persson
That’s the central beat of 2:22 A Ghost Story. New parents, Jenny (Louisa Lytton) and Sam (Nathaniel Curtis) are mid-way through renovating their London home. Their fitted kitchen is modern-standard, a cut and paste navy set-up, complete with sky lights. It’s open plan with a velvet sofa and dining table, backed with big glass, ‘expensive’ double doors leading to the garden.
Sam’s university friend, Lauren (Charlene Boyd) and her latest fling Ben (Joe Absolom) are over for dinner when Jenny confides that she believes the house is haunted. For four days, whilst Sam has been away, each night at 2:22am she has heard circling footsteps in baby Phoebe’s bedroom and inhuman noises from the monitor.
Fuelled by beer, wine and aptly, spirits, the four decide to wait it out till the early hours themselves and start to share their own experiences with the paranormal.
When somebody tells you what they dreamt about last night, it’s no way as interesting to you as it is to them. The same applies with sharing your thoughts on whether there is such thing as ghosts. This is the unfortunate downfall of Danny Robins’ play. Over nearly two hours the four go round in circles, and as tensions rise fractures form.
2:22 relies heavily on its casting - its West End stint has seen a host of spooked celebrities treading the boards for the first time. Under direction from Matthew Dunster and Isabel Marr, there is little respite for anyone in the ensemble piece - they drink, they dine, they fizzle with nervous energy growing more tired, more scared and more drunk. It really creates a fly-on-a-wall effect that offers up the chance to delve right into the psyche of four folk under pressure.
Fortunately they were all on top form. Fear gripped Lytton’s performance as a mother desperate to protect her family, whilst Curtis’ narcissistic Sam is instantly unlikeable - played as somebody who viewers would actively vote to punish in a reality TV show. In contrast, Boyd’s Lauren is warm and empathetic whilst Absolom’s Ben revealed an interesting character with a potty-mouth. Their performances really built up the emotive punch of the twist - which is quickly becoming one of the great theatrical allegiances to keep secret.
Robins’ script has some genuinely funny, observational moments, others are touching, and some lines are just straight-up cruel. But a large chunk is formed of lengthy conversations that argue both sides of his podcast Uncanny’s trademark Team Skeptic and Team Believer. Midway, a carefully constructed drinking game analyses the contrasting views and the result is an over-egged section that feels more lecture hall than thrilling theatre.
Despite this, the friend dynamic is scarily realistic. It holds a mirror to middle-class city folk who share contrasting (but not really) views on gentrification, mental health, parenting, and religion - all themes as flimsy as the layered peeling wallpaper that is supposedly a metaphor for the multifaceted characters, when in reality the deepest it gets is the realisation of the cockney builder who spends his weekends on ‘vigils’ in haunted homes.
A small but illuminated digital clock sits atop the doorway that leads to the darkened staircase. Intermittently the stage blacks out, lined by a pulsing red light (lighting by Lucy Carter, set by Anna Fleischle), as the time skips forward. These breaks allow for giggles and mumbles in the audience - mainly asking each other “but when does it get scary?”. The piece relies time and time again on lights switching on and off, and fox mating calls that might make you drop a Minstrel the first time but sigh the fourth.
The scariest thing about 2:22 is that you will be able to relate to some part of it, and you’ll be forced to realise that. For only a few, this will be a comfort.
2:22 plays at Curve till 11th November before continuing on tour