Tag Archives: Danny Robins

2:22 - A Ghost Story

2:22 – A Ghost Story

★★★★

Gielgud Theatre

2:22 - A Ghost Story

2:22 – A Ghost Story

Gielgud Theatre

Reviewed – 12th December 2021

★★★★

 

“Beatriz and Buckley are an unlikely duo on paper perhaps, but combined they are the absolute shining stars of this production”

 

You can’t beat a good ghost story in a theatre. The darkened auditorium, the focused hush, the sheer unlikeliness of something in a proscenium arch genuinely scaring you.

I remember the first time I saw The Woman in Black, the ultimate theatrical ghost story. I was 14, and having seen a fair bit of theatre already, I fancied myself a little sophisticate. But the first time the woman in black appeared on stage I literally screamed and dove under my brother’s seat. Deeply embarrassed I quickly composed myself, only to do it again 15 minutes later. But The Woman in Black ticks the box on nearly every classic ghost story trope- the old, mysterious setting, the misty moors, a stranger coming to a strange place, a world still living largely in candlelight. 2:22, however, sets the scene in the bright light of modernity with no tropes to hide behind.

Taking place in a doer-upper that’s been gutted and tastefully redecorated (designed by Anna Fleischle), there are no shadows, no scary nooks, no creaking floorboards. On first glance, this is the last place you’d expect to see a ghost, everything new and gleaming, the paint still wet. Even the shrieks from outside are cleanly explained away by smug scientist Sam (Elliot Cowan) as foxes getting it on.

2:22 - A Ghost Story

But despite the lovely open-plan space, motion-censored lights outside, and Alexa conducting the house’s technology on demand, Sam’s wife Jenny (Giovanna Fletcher) feels far less certain that there aren’t supernatural forces afoot. For the past few nights, at 2:22am precisely, she hears footsteps in her daughter’s bedroom, and a man sobbing. When she switches on the light- poof- it’s gone. With guests over for dinner, they decide to make a night of it, waiting until 2:22 to hear for themselves.

Writer Danny Robbins toes the line with balletic aplomb between silly fun with friends and a genuine coaxing fear amongst the cast, and the audience in turn. Guest Lauren (Stephanie Beatriz), sort of believes but is just up for a fun boozy night, where her new partner Ben (James Buckley) is an excitable believer. It’s a nice balance against husband Sam who is maddeningly cynical, and wife Jenny who is exasperatingly histrionic.

The play is perforated with a harrowing scream throughout, which, after maybe the first one, doesn’t really make sense. Its purpose seems only to make the audience jump and to irritate me, which is a shame because the plot is plenty unnerving without it, and if anything, it’s quite distracting, causing a kind of pantomime effect with the audience who, having jumped out of their skins, end up laughing and talking amongst themselves after each one.

Beatriz and Buckley are an unlikely duo on paper perhaps, but combined they are the absolute shining stars of this production. Both known for their previous comic roles, each employs deft comic timing as a mood-lifter as well as a creation of awkward, sometimes painful intensity. It’s artistry to be able to make an audience laugh whilst simultaneously furthering the tension. They also both show themselves to be serious actors, with plenty of emotional scope.

Cowan is playful and gratingly smug, whilst retaining his humanity. He does well to appear not to realise his negative effect on those around him, keeping him on just about the right side of likeable.

Fletcher, however, pitches herself at around 9 from the very beginning and therefore has very little room for growth in hysteria and upset. It would be far more affecting if she had played at least the first half as ‘mildly irritated’ rather than ‘capsizingly distressed’. But if you don’t want it to ruin the rest of the story, you have to actively decide that maybe her character is just quite annoying but still deserving of sympathy.
This is not ground-breaking work, and the final explanation of the ghostly occurrences (don’t worry, I’m not going to ruin it) is only just about satisfying. But it’s ideal wintery entertainment; a titillating plot with genuinely intriguing characters and relationships, and surprisingly funny.

 

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Helen Murray

 


2:22 – A Ghost Story

Gielgud Theatre until 12th February

 

Previously reviewed by Miriam this year:
A Merchant of Venice | ★½ | November 2021
Aaron And Julia | ★★½ | September 2021
La Clique | ★★★★★ | November 2021
Lava | ★★★★ | July 2021
My Son’s A Queer But What Can You Do | ★★★½ | June 2021
Reunion | ★★★★★ | May 2021
Tarantula | ★★★★ | April 2021
Tender Napalm | ★★★★★ | October 2021
The Narcissist | ★★★ | July 2021
The Sugar House | ★★★★ | November 2021
White Witch | ★★ | September 2021
Cratchit | ★★★ | December 2021

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

End of the Pier – 4 Stars

Pier

End of the Pier

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 16th July 2018

★★★★

provocative in challenging our perceptions on censorship and political correctness

 

‘All comedy needs a victim’. This well-known adage is one that is repeated constantly and forms the focal argument for new black comedy End Of The Pier, a play that centres on the often contradictory lives of comics. Making someone laugh should be a joyous action, yet, when it is part of a huge money making business, where your jokes and reputation are under constant scrutiny, it can be rather humourless. Thought-provoking yet highly entertaining, End Of The Pier offers an insider look into how far some will go to earn the last laugh.

Bobby (Les Dennis) used to be a household name. As one half of the once much loved comic double-act, Chalk and Cheese, Bobby helped champion the voice of the working-class, bringing it to the forefront of TV viewing. As years went by, so the tastes and ideas on comedic acceptability changed, leaving Bobby behind, insignificant and lacking laughs. Faced with a lonely life of solitude – and the odd bit of panto – in walks Michael, (Blake Harrison) the nation’s current favourite comedian. He is in trouble, and desperately needs Bobby’s help to try and save his career. Whilst Bobby is being thrust back into the world of showbiz, the darker side of stand-up comedy rears its nasty head, bringing to question, what happens when, deep down, you’re not the type of person everyone thinks you are?

End Of The Pier’s playwright Danny Robins is no stranger to the comedy circuit. He learnt his craft as a stand-up, before turning more behind the scenes, writing jokes for some of the UK’s most well known comedians. His in-depth personal experience provides an authentic depiction of that world, within the play. Not to mention, having Les Dennis on board, whose own life has, in many ways, chartered a very similar path as that of his character.

Robins’ fascination with the evolution of comedy, as well as, dissecting the fundamentals behind why we laugh, comes across clearly. Bobby and Michael are from completely different eras. Where the first half of the play distinguishes their differences, the second half blurs lines, revealing how many of the outdated beliefs and prejudices of yesteryear are still highly present. We have only learnt to suppress them. Robins sophisticatedly offers arguments and social commentary that will play on your mind for days after seeing the production.

The cast give well-rounded performances, with particular mention of Blake Harrison (of The Inbetweeners fame), whose change from Mr Nice Guy to Most Reviled is quite the turnaround. The naturalistic set that has such details as a working kettle and half-eaten biscuits, keeps to the authentic tone established.

End Of The Pier is provocative in challenging our perceptions on censorship and political correctness, yet successfully achieves a nuanced balance in still being amusing and accessible. A must-see if you like your laughs with a touch of intelligence.

 

Reviewed by Phoebe Cole

Photography by Simon Annand

 


End of the Pier

Park Theatre until 11th August

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com