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2:22 A Ghost Story - Review

“2:22 A Ghost Story” lives up to its name, delivering precisely what it promises: a chilling tale unfolding at 2:22 in the morning. With captivating lighting, immersive sound, an innovative set, and a cast of ‘celebrities,’ this production managed to draw in a full house at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal.  


2:22 A Ghost Story Tour
Sam (George Rainsford), Lauren (Vera Cook) and Ben (Jay McGuiness)

Jenny, portrayed by Fiona Wade of Emmerdale fame, is a new mother grappling with sleep deprivation. As she settles her daughter into bed, she becomes unnerved by the sound of footsteps and an unfamiliar man’s voice in their home. Yet, her husband Sam, depicted by George Rainsford from Call the Midwife, dismisses her concerns, relying on logic to debunk her fears. The narrative unfolds during a dinner party attended by their friend Lauren, played by Vera Cook from Hollyoaks, who brings along her new boyfriend, Ben. Jay McGuiness, known for winning ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and being in the boyband ‘The Wanted,’ delivered a standout performance as the builder-come-amateur medium Ben, despite being the only non-actor on stage. 

 

It is evident why this show had attracted such a buzz. The stunt casting, previously featuring celebrities like Cheryl Cole, Lily Allen, Giovanna Fletcher, James Buckley, and a host of soap stars, has undeniably drawn attention. However, this approach to casting led to some scenes feeling over-performed and ‘hammy,’ while the quieter moments lacked the subtle nuances necessary for the performance to truly shine. Initially, I struggled to connect with the characters, and it took time for me to become invested in their journey. I also thought there was a lot of unnecessary swearing that did not add anything other than the occasional cheap laugh, not to mention a line of dialogue about the new mother not drinking tequila because she was breast feeding — whilst drinking several glasses of wine — weird.  


2:22 A Ghost Story Tour
Jenny (Fiona Wade) and Lauren (Vera Cook)

The true marvel of this production lies in its technological prowess. The sound design is nothing short of brilliant, with droning tones propelling the storytelling forward, screeching sounds creating tension, and well-timed loud screams punctuating the ‘jump-scare’ moments. Sound is not just a backdrop here; it is an immersive element that heightens audience engagement to new levels. Strobe lighting plays a significant role throughout the show, accompanied by the occasional blackout. While blackouts typically remind me of tedious GCSE drama showcases, here they are almost redeemed by the clever use of red audience-blinding lights to signal a change in time. However, some of the blackouts felt overly long and disrupted the momentum. Nonetheless, the constant excitement and engagement owed much to the efforts of Ian Dickinson and Lucy Carter in sound and lighting design, respectively.  


2:22 A Ghost Story UK Tour
Discussion over wine and food

Although this review might come across as overly critical, it is worth noting the audience’s reaction. It has been a while since I have seen a theatre production where an overwhelming portion of the audience physically jumped out of the seats at a moment on stage. While I personally found the ‘big twist’ obvious and accurately predicted most of the key moments in act two, the audience was completely engrossed. This was evident from the collective gasp heard during the reveal, and the whispers of predictions throughout the show. To keep the audience guessing, the play throws in numerous storylines, ranging from individual character arcs to past relationships and speculations about the ghost’s identity. While some of these storylines were not neatly tied up in the end, the overall effect was undeniably gripping. 


2:22 A Ghost Story UK Tour
The Sofa during one of Sam's awkward Quizzes.

The show’s humour and references resonated perfectly with the audience, predominantly composed of smart-casual dressed middle-aged individuals, making a Strictly winner an ideal casting choice. Regardless of one’s background, the production offered numerous brilliant moments of humour which had the audience chuckling along, including a recurring callback to Alexa’s refusal to acknowledge Sam’s voice. We have all been there.  

 

Overall, I think I would encourage people to see 2:22 A Ghost Story, and experience what has become a theatrical phenomenon in the UK, and now in many countries overseas. Yes, moments of the show seem very slow, and some of the dialogue is uninteresting and uninspiring, and yet, without the stunt-casting this show wouldn’t have had anything near the success it has, but this production does shine a light on the future of modern theatre plays, and is a fantastic benchmark of what to expect over the next 5 - 10 years. The UK tour continued until the 15th of June 2024, and the London run at the Gielgud Theatre is set to close in August 2024. 

2:22 Fiona Wade
Jenny, Portrayed by Fiona Wade

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