Are you ready to be so ferociously scared that you’ve no choice but to shriek like a little girl at regular intervals and maybe dribble a teensy bit? Ghost Stories is back in London to terrify audiences once again after its initial box office-breaking stay at both the Lyric Hammersmith and the Duke of York’s Theatre in 2010, as well as a gi-normously successful tour around the world. The posters outside the Arts Theatre alone are enough to give you sleepless nights – but to put you off? I don’t think so. That very naughty curiosity we are all in possession of will definitely take over, and you must have those tickets.
Writers Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson are twisted in the best possible way, but with all the horror they bring to this show, there’s some comedy too. Both have had successful careers in TV and film, with the latter co-creating The League of Gentleman and Nyman co-writing Derren Brown’s TV and stage shows. I don’t know about magic, but there’s a very strong resemblance in Ghost Stories to the eerily black comedic flair seen in The League of Gentleman.
I can’t really give anything away in terms of the storyline and, really, it’s best to find out for yourself, but the general atmosphere of the theatre and auditorium as you enter almost immediately puts you on edge. Even before the show started I had the uneasy feeling that someone or something was going to jump out and rip my head off (that didn’t happen). Lighting and staging are fantastic and well thought out, creating exactly what you’d imagine to be in the deepest and most depraved recesses of the mind, courtesy of James Farncombe and Jon Bausor. The acting from all involved is spot-on, especially during the most excessive moments of peril – and there are a fair few. Paul Kemp’s Professor Goodman is given the most to play with and does a great job at being versatile, but Philip Whitchurch’s Night Watchman, Chris Levens’s timid teenage driver and Gary Shelford’s expectant dad all take great delight in scaring the audience witless.
The type of mood Ghost Stories puts its audience in can be likened to sitting alone in a dark room, reading up on your worst nightmares, then hearing a piercing screech behind you. There are a few very disturbing moments that made me feel overwhelmingly upset and sick, but ultimately I expected something a little less showy. The big moments here rely more on in-your-face horror, as opposed to the psychological kind, and don’t feel very thought out – that is, I grant you, until the final moments, which do offer some consolation. Yet I still didn’t feel as shocked as I probably should have done. Overall though, you’re more than likely going to get what you pay for.
Ghost Stories is playing the Arts Theatre until 24 May. For more information and tickets, see the Ghost Stories website.