Updated: Feb 25, 2020
Wow. I mean really. Wow. I did not expect that... Over fifty percent of the Brighton audience believe in ghosts! I could hardly believe my eyes as the hands of those sitting around me shot into the air with either passionate rigour or nervous trepidation. I'd expected far fewer hands. They'll be in for a scary ninety minutes then, I thought. Turns out, sceptic though I am, I was in for it too.
Devised by Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson Ghost Stories has already had a tremendous life. A London run a decade ago before making the switch to film in 2017, it is now making its way around the UK. Reviewers have been instructed to keep the plot and the shocks under wraps, of which there are a plethora. I'll come clean. I've seen the film. It was a while ago and I couldn't exactly remember the ins and outs but I was prepared for the gist of it. If you're in the same boat and worried that this might spoil the show, It doesn't. It is different, I will grant you that. If I had gone in completely unawares I expect I would have felt the jumps more keenly, but even so, I was taken in by this captivating production.
Much credit must go to the design team. The lighting (James Farncombe), sound (Nick Manning), set (Jon Bausor), and special effects (Scott Penrose) teams are who really make this show crawl into your skin. Locations seep onto the stage from a background hidden away, lit ingeniously so as not to give the game away, with bouts of booming music timed to perfection to make you jump out of your chair. One of the benefits of reviewing a show at the Theatre Royal is their generous offer of a complimentary drink. Unfortunately, in this case, I threw most of mine all over my legs as I was, once again, sent from my seat by a particularly unexpected shock.
That isn't to say that the actors are bad, far from it. Strong performances all round, special mention to Gus Gordon who is making his professional debut as the sheepishly middle class teenager Simon Rifkind. All are equally talented though and embody their characters with a potent energy that keeps the show ticking along at an exciting pace.
Ghost Stories is extraordinary because of what it achieves live onstage, things that when the designers saw the directions in the script for the first time, probably thought: 'bloody hell.' They more than meet the challenge, sometimes I was left doubting my eyes at the spectacle unfolding before me. Though I suppose that's the point. It is, after all, a ghost story.
Ghost Stories is on at the Theatre Royal Brighton until the 15th of February, tickets available here - https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/ghost-stories/theatre-royal-brighton/
If you want to see where else it's heading, and book tickets for the rest of the tour, they're available here - https://www.ents24.com/uk/tour-dates/ghost-stories-1