2:22 A GHOST STORY at the Royal & Derngate Theatre
“For the audience, there are goosebumps aplenty but no cause for nightmares”
With its previous West End successes fresh in the mind and the production now on national tour, this play by Danny Robins has all the signs of becoming a cult classic. As the house lights go down, the audience whoops and even screams in anticipation.
Lauren (Vera Chok) and her new boyfriend Ben (Jay McGuinness) are invited around to the home of Sam (George Rainsford) and Jenny (Fiona Wade) for food, drinks and a friendly catch-up. It’s a classic comedy set-up that builds on past rivalries, marital bickering, and one-upmanship between the couples. And there’s a lot of humour at play here – particularly in the ribbing between the two men – but the clue is in the title. This is not primarily a comedy but a ghost story and each of the characters has their own story to tell. The main story is that of Lauren who has witnessed and heard strange goings on at precisely 2.22am over the last few mornings and the four friends agree to wait up to witness it all for themselves. Two digital clocks are constantly on show and whilst we enjoy the shenanigans of the dinner party throughout the evening our eyes are on the clocks as the minutes move closer to the moment of truth.
The ensemble doesn’t quite gel at first. A lot of dialogue is lost in the vast Derngate auditorium as characters speak over each other. Fiona Wade excels as the exhausted mother of a new baby, exasperated that her husband can’t accept that what she has seen is real. George Rainsford is the star of the show, his bouncy enthusiasm driving everything forward. Acting newbie Jay McGuinness does well as cockney-chappie-builder, dressed in a blue suit and no socks (Cindy Lin costumes). Vera Chok gets better as Lauren gets drunker.
Sparing use of eerie soundscape heightens the mood (Ian Dickinson sound) and in a story of this type there simply has to be a scene with fog rolling in and lightning strikes (Lucy Carter lights). The set (Anna Fleischle set design) looks somewhat cramped making movement around the household furniture awkward (Directors Matthew Dunster and Isabel Marr).
Signs of the ongoing redecoration allow discussion about neighbourhood gentrification and the trend for a new generation to do away with the past. This then connects with the possibility of resident ghosts objecting to the new change. Part serious, part absurd.
It’s up to us to decide how ludicrous any of this party talk might be. Jenny, after all, is genuinely scared. For the audience, there are goosebumps aplenty but no cause for nightmares. And plenty to think on once the clock reaches 2:22.
2:22 A GHOST STORY at the Royal & Derngate Theatre (as part of UK tour)
Reviewed on 10th January 2024
by Phillip Money
Photography by Johan Persson
Previously reviewed at this venue:
2:22 A GHOST STORY
2:22 A GHOST STORY