Travelling west I wasn’t sure what to expect from Ghost Stories. The production felt deliberately shrouded in mystery which added to my anticipation. So I’m a little nervous of writing this review. I’ve tried hard not to include spoilers (although none would be a big surprise if you’ve seen the film version of the play). If you’d rather be kept completely in the dark, and this is the perfect play for that, please don’t read on.
The show is making a return to the place where it started (ten years ago) before it went on to a long run in the West End and a hugely successful world tour. Several of our team had seen it before. They told me to be afraid, very afraid.
Arriving at Lyric in Hammersmith, we could see the Ghost Stories posters we had designed, hanging above the main entrance and throughout the hallways. It’s always lovely to see our work so prominently displayed.
It was press night and with tickets in hand we ventured into the bar area where we spotted a few familiar faces (Danny Dyer and Martin Freeman amongst them).
The bell tolled, inviting us to take our seats for the show. Walking into the auditorium the jolly atmosphere of the bar was replaced by nervous murmurs and chilled air. The space was spun like a web of yellow and black hazard-tape, and there were safety lights strung throughout. And on the walls, were scrawled numbers which, to me, had no relation to one another.
All of sudden the lights went out!
A clicking sound started and images of ghouls and numbers began to flash onto the safety curtain setting the scene for what was to come.
In rushed Professor Goodman, played by Simon Lipkin, a lecturer who had devoted his life to disproving the stories of supernatural encounters. He was our guide for the evening taking us through three encounters which even he struggled to disprove.
The first was with Tony Matthews, played by Garry Cooper, a night watchman in an abandoned women’s asylum, now used for storage. He spoke to a colleague, via a crackly intercom, and tuned a transistor radio through the static. The build up was slow, deliberate. He searched through a room of mannequins. We all knew what was going to happen but it didn’t stop us holding our breath, biting our lip, leaning into the darkness.
Then bam! The timing was impeccable. The release made us all jump and scream and giggle in the way that only fear will do to you.
The next story was about a young teenager called Simon Rifkind, played by Preston Nyman, son of the show’s co-creator, Andy Nyman (who had played the Professor, in the original production). We worked through a similar process. A slow build, off-stage voices. Simple, small, understandable decisions built into a situation that Simon could not escape. And a supernatural pay-off that made me jump out of my skin.
The final encounter was with Mike Priddle, played by Richard Sutton, a city financier, juggling a pregnant wife and busy career (not literally). He has no time for spectral nonsense but it’s soon clear that the birth of his child was not without some terrifying consequences.
I’m struggling not to reveal what happens. I can tell you that the surprises will make you jump, laugh nervously and drive you insane with suspense.
From start to finish Ghost Stories was an emotional rollercoaster, full of suspense and frights, but not without a fair chunk of humour. The staging was spectacular and used in a really effective way to enhance the stories that were being performed by a talented cast.
I would definitely recommend grabbing a ticket but warn you of the nightmares to follow.