2:22 A Ghost Story – Review – ★★★★½
The Mousetrap meets Abigail’s Party – with some bumps in the night for good measure – in this throughly entertaining, edge-of-your-seat chamber piece.
It’s hard to review a ghost story which makes the element of surprise its big draw – the risk of spoilers is rife, and 2:22 deserves to remain unspoiled just as much as Agatha Christie’s much-revered The Mousetrap.
That famous whodunnit, set in a snowed-in guesthouse, might well have been an inspiration for 2:22 writer Danny Robins – though here, instead of murder, there’s something spooky and perhaps sinister awaiting our central characters. Sam and Jenny, and their young baby, have invited friend Lauren and her current boyfriend Ben for a boozy dinner at their mid-renovation new home. Jenny (Giovanna Fletcher) has suffered sleepless nights while Sam (Elliot Cowan) was away, and hopes to convince him – something of know it all, and very much a sceptic – that the house might be haunted. Soon, Lauren & Ben (Stephanie Beatriz & James Buckley) are witnesses to – and participants in – a growing disagreement over the possibility that a previous inhabitant might be haunting the house.
There’s no snow keeping the four of them trapped – rather, they’re held together in Jenny & Sam’s knocked-through living room by the promise (or threat) of staying up until 2:22am, the time when paranormal activity has kicked in for the last few nights.
And there’s your disarmingly simple premise. Who will be proved right? Jenny, who has heard footsteps each night through the baby monitor, and Ben, who regularly attends ghost-watch vigils? Or rationalist Sam, convinced that science offers a plausible explanation for everything. Meanwhile, psychiatrist Lauren is drinking for four.
The tension ratchets up, as the booze flows and tempers fray – there’s more than a little of Abigail’s Party the way the social and class relations between the four harden, and threaten to shatter.
And then, of course, 2:22am arrives – and the challenge, for any audience members who consider themselves something of a sleuth, is to telegraph the jaw-dropping climax that awaits.
Fletcher and Cowan are excellent as the stressed, sleep-deprived Jenny and overbearing, “I know best” husband Sam. Meanwhile, Beatriz (Brookline Nine-Nine’s Rosa Diaz) and Buckley (The Inbetweeners) provide the laughs between the scares. And scares there are, throughout, cleverly deployed as punctuation between scenes, each time producing gasps and nervous chuckles from an increasingly anxious audience.
There aren’t many night out at the theatre like this – perhaps The Woman In Black is the nearest you’ll get – with audiences taken on a real roller-coaster ride of thrills. And, for a show that aims to scare, the writing on the performances don’t skimp during the ‘downtime’. The script is well-written, engaging and at times laugh-out-loud funny. The cast, collectively and individually, are totally on the ball and giving it everything. The jumps are bloody jumpy! Ok, so it’s a tad derivative, and some misers might spot the finale coming and spoil their own fun. But immerse yourself in this fun, frightener of a show, and you won’t be disappointed.
2:22 A Ghost Story is booking until 12 February at the Gielgud Theatre.