Danny Robins’ 2:22 A Ghost Story is haunting the west end once again with an eclectic new cast. The horror play has resurrected the acting career of Inbetweeners star James Buckley, joined by Brooklyn 99’s Stephanie Beatriz, Elliot Cowan, and Queen of the Castle, Giovanna Fletcher. The bizarre mix of cast alone is enough to peak curiosity.
Jenny (Giovanna Fletcher) is a stressed new mother trying to a pull together a dinner party for an old uni friend, hot-shot professional Lauren (Stephanie Beatriz) and her builder boyfriend Ben (James Buckley). Jenny’s know-it-all middle class husband, Sam (Elliot Cowan) also joins the party from a three-day work trip, immediately taking a dislike to Lauren’s new squeeze, and openly reminiscing about the times Lauren and himself spent in his bedsit at uni, causing quite the sexual tension from the off. Jenny, although perturbed by this, has much more on her mind, as she reveals that over the past few nights, at exactly 2:22am, she’s felt and heard the presence of a ghost in their baby’s bedroom. When she’s met with disbelief from her husband, she challenges them all to stay in the house until 2:22…
Over copious amounts of wine, the group lie in wait, and discuss their beliefs – or lack thereof, in ghosts. Coming from a Catholic background, it’s clear that Jenny is the superstitious type, which Giovanna portrays with an exhaustive frantic energy throughout, with little variation in her acting. As the main character of the piece, it’s a real shame that Fletcher appears completely tone-deaf to the way horrors work best – start small, and build. This was done much more subtlety by Elliot Cowan, playing her skeptic husband, Sam. Easily one of the strongest actors in the piece, Cowan captures the arrogant, snobbish Sam to a T.
Meanwhile, builder Ben is all-in on Jenny’s ghost story. Coming from a working class family, his mother hosted seances for the neighbours – something he later attempts to recreate. Although a great comic relief, it’s difficult to separate James from his iconic role as Jay Cartwright, but he does come into his own by the second half. Ben argues that the gentrification of the neighbourhood has stripped the old Victorian terraces of their original character, and all that is left of these old homes are the layers of history beneath and the ghosts of the working class people who once dwelled there. Although, it does feel like this theme is slightly forgotten at the end.
This imagery is thoughtfully implemented in the set design by Anna Fleischle – easily the highlight of the whole piece. The half-finished renovated home reveals the different layers of previous years – the 70’s yellow flowery wallpaper in the hall, the stylish dark grey of the living room wall that doesn’t quite reach the ceiling, and the half painted door frame, all contrasting with the new, flashy skylights. The attention to detail is striking.
The lighting by Lucy Carter is impactful, with a glowing red neon light flashing around the edge of the stage in the darkness at the end of each scene. This is combined with a piercing scream each time – which is powerful the first couple of times, but soon looses its charm, and also has little to do with the action on stage. Horror-wise, there are a few scares, making full use of technology with the creepy baby monitor sounds and Alexa playing an old song out of the blue.
Although some of the conversations between the group dragged in the first half, the second half is far more exciting, picking up the pace and pushing the scares. On the whole, it’s an exciting play to watch, purely for the tension.
Ultimately, if you’re into live horror/ghost story experiences, then pretty sure this will be your cup of tea. It’s got some thrills, and you’re sure to be discussing the twist with your pals after…