The Alexandra, Birmingham – until Saturday 11 January 2020, then Nationwide
Reviewed by Joanne Hodge
Let me start by saying that I’m scared of the dark. Terrified. So much so, that as I and my companion walked up to theatre, and noticed the flickering signs – intentional, or something more sinister? – they asked if it was a good idea to go on!
My fear, I think, stems from the fact that I was allowed to watch age-inappropriate horror movies as a child. I still watch them now – slightly like self torture.
Ghost Stories, written – from seemingly twisted imaginations – by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, begins it’s first nationwide tour at The Alexandra, some ten years after it’s creation. It’s previous success led to a film adaptation of the script with a somewhat stellar cast, so expectations were high. I wasn’t disappointed.
The show is a total immersive experience, even the theatre foyer and bar were adorned with crime scene tap, eerie lighting and random chalked numbers littered around the walls and mirrors. You didn’t know why, but it already set your senses on edge.
It’s advised the show is not suitable for those under the age of 15, and I would add to that that if you’re of a nervous disposition, STAY AWAY!
The anxiety and anticipation is heightened but the fact that warnings are given that latecomers need not bother to enter, and that if leaving the auditorium – even for an emergency toilet trip (I thought I might need several after many squeaky bum moments!) – you will not be allowed to re-enter.
The story revolves a narrative from Professor of Parapsychology, Phillip Goodman, played by Joshua Higgott. He takes us through a roller coaster of emotions as he guides us through three ‘ghost stories’, involving night-watchman Tony (Paul Hawkyard), teenager testing the boundaries Simon (Gus Gordon) and city-slicker Mike (the brilliant Richard Sutton), with all three adding some much needed moments of humour and light.
I can’t really say much else about the plot – those attending are asked not to, so as not to spoilt experience for those yet to se the show. What I will say however, is that if you enjoy the twist of an M. Night Shyamalan film, you’ll LOVE this.
Those eighties horror films of my youth were all brought back to me with some genuinely shocking and blood-curling moments. The experience shakes all of your senses, pushing you both toward the edge of your seat and back in toward the person next to you – whether you know them or not – as scenes change from set to set, dark to light and back again.
Design (Jon Bauser), lighting (James Farncombe) and sound (Nick Manning) have to be blamed for making these such a terrifying experience – and I say that in absolute awe of their work. Scott Penrose’s special effects also deserve mention in creating a show where you become part of the ensemble.
I thoroughly enjoyed Ghost Stories – even if it made driving at home late at night somewhat spookier. Should you see it? I’d say go and have a look if you think you’re brave enough!