Salisbury Playhouse, Salisbury – until 1 October 2022
Reviewed by Gemma Gibson
Four ghost stories, two men, one chilling secret.
I’ve never been sure whether I believe in ghosts, but for 90 minutes, When Darkness Falls had me unashamedly converted.
James Milton and Paul Morrissey’s spine-chilling production left me on the edge of my seat, drawing me into a world of dark, unproven history with endless twists and turns.
The play begins with a stormy night on the small island of Guernsey. Here, a young paranormal expert joins a sceptical history teacher to record the first in a series of podcasts, exploring the area’s incredible folklore and paranormal history.
Starring Peter Duncan and Daniel Rainford, it doesn’t take long before disturbing tales and truths reach the surface, and the pair learn more about each other than they could have ever imagined.
The sheer storytelling power of Rainford, playing ‘the speaker’, had the audience fully gripped and transported to that small classroom in Guernsey, and then wherever his terrifying tales took us, making us all believe that, perhaps, ghosts actually do exist.
The haunting stories of past, present and future had the audience echoing the reactions of Duncan, playing the increasingly rattled John Blondel who, despite being only one of two men onstage, filled the space effortlessly with this big, formidable role. A history teacher clearly with a complex history.
As the speaker, Rainford’s stories of paranormal activity had the audience glued to the stage, frightened but alert and questioning. Cowering in my seat, I couldn’t look away even if I wanted to.
The minimalistic – but cleverly done – use of sound, set and lighting not only amplified happenings onstage, but put paramount focus on the pair’s exchange of powerful stories and anecdotes.
The dialogue between the pair anchored the production with a sense of realism, the fast pace causing emotions and pulse to run high, for both audience and cast, with every new shocking folklore tale.
Inspired by true events, When Darkness Falls is built on powerful, electric storytelling, weaving and confusing what is real with frighteningly realistic legends yet to be proven.
The production had the audience guessing what would come next, but by the end we were all reflecting on our own history and those unthinkable, locked away moments – our own ghosts perhaps.