Prior to watching the show, all I knew about 2:22 A Ghost Story was that the West End run had seen alternating celebrities stepping into the lead roles, from the likes of Lily Allen and Tom Felton, to Matt Willis and Cheryl. On its UK tour, although they’ve cast some familiar faces, with no disrespect to Eastenders or The Bill, they’re not quite the household names of the show’s earlier iterations.
But while we at Norwich Theatre Royal don’t get to watch pop stars, TV presenters, or podcasters, we do get to see established actors in Joe Absolom, Louisa Lytton, Charlene Boyd, and Nathaniel Curtis. I suspect the trade-off is that we are treated to a higher quality of acting, with Joe Absolom the pick of the bunch.
That’s all well and good of course, but what we’re really here for is to have the living daylights frightened out of us; so did they achieve that? The short answer is yes, sort of.
The action is set in the open-plan living space of new parents, Sam (Nathaniel Curtis) and Jenny (Louisa Lytton). Having recently moved into the house, they are giving it a complete renovation, and the show opens with Jenny painting a door frame. We learn that Sam has been away for a few days, and since then Jenny has been spooked by strange goings-on, with the time of 2:22 being the apparent witching hour. But it's when Sam and Jenny host old friend Lauren (Charlene Boyd) and her new boyfriend, Ben (Joe Absolom), for dinner that the tension starts to mount.
The story itself is a fairly simple tale, with an excellent twist at the end, but it's all about the way the action draws you in, lulling you into a false sense of security, before hitting you with a shriek or a bang to make you jump out of your seat. It's a device that leaves you on edge for most of the show, as you try and anticipate when the next jump-scare moment is going to arrive.
Like most of the audience I should imagine, I kept half an eye on the on-stage clock throughout as it ticked ever closer to 2:22, but you also couldn't help nervously eyeing the entrances and exits. The big, reflective glass doors into the garden, complete with automatic security light that seemed to randomly turn on and off only served to heighten the sense that something was about to happen or someone was about to jump out at us.
All of this is built on the foundation of a really punchy, clever script from writer Danny Robins, with the dialogue being delivered by the actors at an impressive rate of knots that never quite allows you to settle.
Heading towards Hallowe’en season, with its eerie atmosphere and jump-scare moments, 2:22 A Ghost Story is a perfect way to get in the mood. It continues at Norwich Theatre Royal until 14 October.