Mark Ludmon reviews Danny Robins’ 2:22 A Ghost Story which has transferred to the Criterion Theatre, London.
2:22 A Ghost Story
Criterion Theatre, London
It is over a year since Danny Robins’ ghost story 2:22 premiered in the West End but, with a new cast, it continues to serve up plenty of scares, screams and spookiness in its new home at the Criterion Theatre. Since it first opened, Robins has gained more fans from his BBC radio and podcast series Uncanny about real-life supernatural experiences, a follow-up to his audio hit, The Battersea Poltergeist. In 2:22, listeners will detect many of the familiar features of his stories of the uncanny as it explores ideas around the supernatural while also telling a cracking ghost story set in a haunted house.
Set over the course of one long evening, it brings together four characters with differing views over ghosts. Former sceptic Jenny has started having terrifying experiences at exactly 2.22am in the London house that she and husband Sam have just bought and started to renovate. But Sam – a know-it-all scientist – is convinced that the supernatural can always be explained away, that ghosts defy the basic laws of thermodynamics. Their friend, Lauren, a psychiatrist, is another sceptic but more open-minded while her new boyfriend, Ben, is a full-on believer brought up by spiritualists.
As the minutes tick towards 2.22am – indicated by a digital clock on the wall – they argue about the supernatural and talk of their own experiences of spooks, maintaining a sense of tension to keep the heart racing. Directed by Matthew Dunster, it never lets up on this tension – and regularly shatters it with ear-piercing screams. Supposedly the cries of foxes, these screams could be accused of being cheap, gratuitous tricks – but they work and fit in with the production’s playful and mischievous manipulation of the audience. The mood is heightened by Ian Dickinson’s ominous sound design and lighting designer Lucy Carter’s use of lights and shadows alongside cunning illusions from Chris Fisher.
Laura Whitmore is excellent as Jenny, struggling with her fears about the ghostly threat as well as the flaws in her marriage, while Felix Scott as Sam perfectly balances charm with toxic masculinity. They are strongly matched by Tamsin Carroll as the wise-cracking but fragile Lauren and by Matt Willis as working-class builder Ben who clashes with Sam’s smug and stubborn scepticism.
This is a very modern ghost story – technology plays its part in building the sense of foreboding, from the motion-sensor lighting in the backyard to the baby monitor and an erratic Alexa. The play draws nicely on the topical debate about gentrification of working-class communities, where the spirits of past inhabitants may lurk behind the new designer wallpaper and Quartz countertops. The set, designed by Anna Fleischle, captures this beautifully by mixing the past and present, where vintage tasselled lamp shades hang alongside modern metal dome pendants. With plenty of humour to lighten the creepiness, 2:22 is a smart and entertaining show that is sure to make your spine tingle.
2:22: A Ghost Story is running at London’s Criterion Theatre, currently booking to 8 January 2023.
The show has just announced a transfer to the Lyric Theatre in January 2023.