It’s not often that a play comes with a health warning and a fifteen certificate. Ghost Stories, however, is no ordinary play. During its run in Liverpool’s Everyman and Playhouse theatre an ambulance was called for an audience member that had fainted, and in London’s Duke of York’s theatre there were more screams than the most death defying rollercoaster ride at a theme park. “It’s a full-on experience”, says writer Jeremy Dyson. Dyson has previously worked as a writer on the notoriously dark television comedy League of Gentlemen, and Andy Nyman has co-created and directed television shows for Derren Brown. Here they have produced a show that successfully scares and shocks.
As you enter the theatre it looks like the scene of a crime with tape, warning signs, flickering lights and eerie music. Parapsychologist Phillip Goodman, convincingly played by Nyman, begins a lecture. He asks the audience “who here believes in ghosts?” Half put up their hands. “Who here believes they’ve had a paranormal experience?” A quarter put up their hands. Philip is a sceptic and suggests that paranormal experiences are generated from the individual’s own fears. He gives a brief history of ghosts and then retells his most memorable case studies that are then cleverly re-enacted on stage: a teenager whose car stops in a forest, a security guard who is alone at 3am, and city boy who is alone in his child’s nursery.
The characters, stories, and jumps are predictable, but there is something inherently scarier about stage than screen. Despite the fact that you’re surrounded by plenty of people it is harder to suspend your disbelief when the action is right in front of you. At eighty minutes and with no interval, it is instantly gripping and unbelievably intense. One of the surprises of the show though is that it is funny, but with every comic moment there is a false sense of security that is followed by a fright. You have been warned.
Runs till November 7.
To see or not to see: * * * *