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REVIEW - 2:22 A Ghost Story is so intelligent and witty, and plays the best game of hide and seek with your psychological primal fears


On Tuesday, we were lucky enough to return to The Lowry to review 2:22 A Ghost Story for a second time. Read what our reviewer Karen Ryder had to say about seeing the latest run of this fantastic show...

I have braved 2:22 A Ghost Story once before, on Halloween no less, and I survived – just!  I have kept the secret this whole time, but now I know it, I have to confess I was even more excited to go back and rewatch this show because I had a feeling it was going to blow my mind all over again!  I am usually a bit of a wuss in the spooky stakes so a part of me is asking why I am putting myself through this a second time, but 2:22 is so intelligent and witty, and plays the best game of hide and seek with your psychological primal fears that it’s beyond things that go bump in the night, opening its doors to all kinds of believers.  Basically, 2:22 A Ghost Story is impossible to resist, luring you in with a teasing, tantalising temptation that will cause your spine to tingle, your seat to be gripped and your senses to be woken up in ways you never imagined!  And this is my obsession with 2:22 – the unique ways that our brains are manipulated, derailed and impacted by fear, and how that fear is personal to each and every one of us, just as ghosts are.  It means that there is a shared camaraderie in the audience and a sense of ‘we are all in this together’ before anything has even happened, bringing a heightened anticipation and tangible excitement.  Adding an additional layer of mystery and intrigue is the secrecy surrounding the show, dangling the carrot of wanting to become a part of the club, to be in the know and have inside information that the poor unfortunates who haven’t seen it are inflicted with.  Then of course there is the unknown.  What is 2:22?  Is it a time?  And if so, why is it so important?  What forsakes the unsuspecting mortals at such a time?  Knowing this is a ghost story paves the way for our imaginations to run riot, and no avenue is left unexplored, leading us to the dark and twisty crossroads of divisive opinions. 


And so it is we meet Jenny (Fiona WadeEmmerdale, Waterloo Road), an exhausted and wiped out new mum who is juggling too much life whilst trying to adjust to a new home as well as a new role.  Husband Sam (George RainsfordCasualty, Call The Midwife, Wish You Were Dead) has been away with work, leaving her to not only deal solo with the baby and the troublesome foxes that keep setting security lights off, but to host a dinner for his old friend Lauren (Vera ChokHollyoaks, Chewing Gum, Chimamerica) and her new partner Ben (Jay McGuinessThe Wanted, Strictly, Big The Musical).  Therefore, when Sam returns, things are already a little tense, particularly as Jenny has been spooked out by certain goings on in their new home.  But Sam is way too practical and scientific to believe in any of Jenny’s ramblings, undermining her accounts with what he believes is irrevocable proof that her mind is simply playing tricks on her.  As the evening goes on, tensions surface, both old and new, with opinions clashing and frustrations growing more intense.  The existence or fable of ghosts is the topic on everyone’s lips and as Jenny feels increasingly mocked by the one person she needs to believe in her, she conjures up an idea.  An idea that leaves four adults waiting for the clock to strike 2:22 precisely.  And what will happen when it does?  Give over! As if I’m going to be the cause of that spoiler!!

Fiona Wade
perfectly pulls us into her ghost story from the second she appears on stage.  She weaves a tapestry of emotive responses as we are able to empathise, sympathise, believe and doubt in her convictions.  She keeps us on our toes and intrigued throughout.  Wade can appear both strong and determined whilst longing for compassion and support from the one person who is supposed to believe her.  You can see her mind at play as she tries to figure out how you continue when your husband doesn’t believe you.  Her performance is incredible, covering so many of the big emotions in a truthful and just way.  George Rainsford excels as the smug Sam, allowing a character that has the potential to be overbearing and obnoxious infectiously likeable at the same time. He is confident, self-assured and owns the stage with a certain charm.  He ignites the stage with a captivating energy and is so quick with his comic timing that just like his character, he is always one step ahead.  His explosive frustrations when others don’t agree with him nestle impressively alongside his ability to show Sam’s love in his own unique way.

Jay McGuiness
brings us Ben, a character who believes in his own psychic abilities and is the polar opposite of Sam in every way.  He believes Sam to be a privileged snob and subtly displays his resentments and jealousies over Sams relationship with Lauren with a palpable fury that he persistently tries to supress.  He is also extremely funny and down to earth, yet other worldly at the same time.  McGuiness plays all these opposing traits to a tee, and captures these moments with a perfectly timed look, raised eyebrow or nod of the head.  He equally brings us a little bit of menace when sparring with Sam in an eerily controlled manner and these gear changes really do engage and keep you locked in.  We see the emotional spiral of Lauren courtesy of Vera Chok, whose loyalty to Sam denies her own truth as she goes to extremes to prove herself.  But you can only deny your truth for so long before it threatens to erupt, and once that happens, there is nowhere to hide.  She is excellent at portraying hidden feelings and as the alcohol takes hold, we see Chok develop Lauren further still in unexpected ways.  The intensity of restrained crying speaks volumes to the whirlwind going on inside this character and you see everything that is never said through those tears.  A wonderfully hypnotic performance.  Individually the cast are great but together they are superb, bouncing off each other with expert timing and nuanced precision.

Directed by Matthew Dunster and Isabel Marr, the interplay between the characters and their array of varying relationships is explored with a thirst for intrigue and truth, highlighting that the concept of truth is so personal and subjective.  The honest and naturalistic performances make the whole thing entirely believable, allowing you to picture yourself right in the thick of the discussion.  It continually messes with your mind.   Anna Fleischle’s set brings Jenny and Sams fixer-upper house alive in more ways than one.  Peeling wallpaper, trinkets, a working kitchen, and of course, a working clock that announces the passing of time.  2:20…….2:21…..2:22! 

I cannot stress enough how sharp, quick and finely tuned the humour is in 2:22 A Ghost Story.  Of course you can expect the jump factor through flickering lights, black outs, screams, and unexpected noises alongside the psychological thrill of suspense, but what caught me even more unawares was the sensationally funny sarcasm, roasting, and one liners.  You will belly laugh as much as you will jump and scream, perhaps even more so.  Writer Danny Robins is a master at observing human nature.  He has captured complex and beguiling relationships, intertwined with delicate histories, and clashed personalities, beliefs, and social backgrounds, all against the heated and taboo subject of ghosts.  This enables 2:22 A Ghost Story to appeal to all, because it beautifully blends it all, creating so much more than a scary play.  And this is why it has won so any awards.  It focuses on character first, people first, and these characters are so well written that for everything they tell you, there is equally something that they hide.  The complexities at play are stunning.  

Watching this show for the second time is just as rewarding as the first, if not more so because I get to view it through an entirely new lens and my goodness, the detail that presents itself when you know the secret is fantastic!  As realisation of so many things clanged into my consciousness, I wanted to scream out at the sheer brilliance of it all.  So my genuine advice is that 2:22 A Ghost Story is a show you need to watch at least twice because the first time offers suspense, secrets and thrill, whilst the second showing offers amazement, reveals and an overwhelming, awe inspiring sense of consciousness.  Plus, you will still jump just as much the second time round if you’re anything like me!  There are many effects used throughout the show to assist you with those jumps.  But for me, this game of sleeping lions or Grandma’s footsteps with my own imagination is the true fear factor of the show, fear triggered by the mere suggestion of what is to come, of facing the unknown, our primal instincts triggered by our own doing.  The show makes you play hide and seek with your own limits, makes you jump out of your seat the next, then belly laugh as you discover random facts, such as why asparagus makes your wee smell weird!  Then of course, there are the ghost stories.  Everyone has one.  Hold your breath.  Don’t blink.  Always question.  Be wary of who you trust.  And don’t move.  Then, if all else fails - scream!  

2:22 A Ghost Story
plays with your mind, making you question everything you thought you knew.  It provides twists and turns that quite literally emote gasps of shock, surprise and awe from this responsive audience.  It respectfully unifies the beliefs surrounding ghosts from a variety of angles by representing them all, but it does so by simply lighting a fuse with the word ghost, then sitting back and letting the explosion happen.  It is a topic that continues to have pulling power and perhaps always will, and so whether you find yourself aligned with Jenny, Sam, Lauren or Ben, the mere whisper of the word ghost can animate even the most tempered of souls.  So, whether talk of ghosts evokes the need for you to call ghostbusters, a spiritualist, or a psychologist, 2:22 A Ghost Story will get you talking, will float amongst the darkest corridors of your own subconscious, and will keep dropping questions into your mind long after the show has finished.

WE SCORE 2:22 A Ghost Story...

2:22 A Ghost Story is on at The Lowry, Salford until Saturday 15th June 2024.

Watch our "In Conversation with Fiona Wade and George Rainsford" video


Watch our "In Conversation with Jay McGuiness and Vera Chok" video



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