Tag Archives: Gielgud Theatre

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

 

The Upstart Crow

★★★★★

Gielgud Theatre

The Upstart Crow

The Upstart Crow

Gielgud Theatre

Reviewed – 18th February 2020

★★★★★

 

“What comes over as too silly, too exaggerated for me on the small screen, becomes uproarious comedy gold on stage”

 

This gloriously silly romp is clever, joyful and fabulously funny. There are enough Shakespearean references to please those who know their Bard, and mentions of so many of his plays I thought we were going for the full First Folio. But it’s all sewn together so finely that it never jars. It’s over the top and, at times, quite mad.

There were clearly a lot of fans of the TV series in the audience, and I have to confess that I don’t really like it on television. What comes over as too silly, too exaggerated for me on the small screen, becomes uproarious comedy gold on stage. The writing is very clever, and the twenty first century allusions to everything from sexism, racism and homophobia to leaves on the line never jars. Ben Elton has a genius for this, and he’s had a lot of fun with the script. “See it, Slay it, Slaughtered.” You’ll have to see it to find out where that came from!

David Mitchell’s Shakespeare is in need of inspiration. A new play has to be written for the Globe and he has writer’s block. His young friend Kate, a delightful Gemma Whelan, who desperately wants to act, but can’t because it’s 1605, reads a book on the loo. Books that Shakespeare steals his plots from. She tries to help him with ideas and, with the arrival of an assortment of characters including African princes, identical twins, a dancing bear, and a Malvolioesque Doctor Hall, the hapless playwright eventually comes up with a brilliant new play, and the best exit line ever. Mark Heap, as Doctor Hall brings true comedy magic with his ever larger pants and alarmingly cross-gartered cod-piece and Steve Speirs overacts with glee as Burbage. Helen Monks and Danielle Phillips are a delightful double act as Shakespeare’s daughters Susanna and Judith, and Rob Rouse’s servant, Bottom looks like he’s seen it all before, and probably has. The ‘African Princes,’ and supposedly identical, twins Desiree and Aragon, have arrived in the madness that is this particular form of Shakespeare’s London after a shipwreck, and Rachel Summers and Jason Callender enter into the cross dressing chaos with gusto. Reice Weathers deserves special mention for his portrayal of Mr Whiskers the Dancing Bear, and for spending the whole evening under stage lighting in a bear suit. The cast flip from contemporary language to Shakespearean verse with ease and energy, clearly enjoying the challenge. Director Sean Foley, has a real eye for comedy, wringing every last juicy bit of silliness from Elton’s script and Alice Power’s gorgeous set and costume design give us a London and Stratford recognisable from many a Shakespeare play.

The old ‘identical twins separated by disaster who don’t recognise each other because one is dressed as a girl’ thing is further complicated by a ‘black woman pretending to be a white man pretending to be a black man so she can play Othello’ thing, in a dizzying identity confusion. People fall in love with the wrong people, hide behind tiny trees and speak in loud asides that the others on stage can’t hear. It’s all as Shakespearean as can be. And it’s all rather wonderful.

 

Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Johan Persson

 


The Upstart Crow

Gielgud Theatre until 25th April

 

Last ten shows reviewed by Katre:
Martha, Josie And The Chinese Elvis | ★★★★★ | Park Theatre | December 2019
The Snow Queen | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | December 2019
Catch Of The Day | ★★★★ | The Vaults | January 2020
Coming Clean | ★★★★ | Trafalgar Studios | January 2020
Little Boxes | ★★★★★ | The Vaults | January 2020
Peeping Tom: Child (Kind) | ★★★ | Barbican | January 2020
The Legend Of The Holy Drinker | ★★½ | The Vaults | January 2020
In My Lungs The Ocean Swells | ★★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Time And Tide | ★★★ | Park Theatre | February 2020
Gypsy Flame | ★★★★★ | Network Theatre | February 2020

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews