2:22 A Ghost Story ★★★★★

Danny Robin’s spooky play 2:22 A Ghost Story finds a new West End home with a brand-new cast to send shivers down your spine.

2:22 A Ghost Story is a play that is intent on renewing itself. As well as relocating to various theatres around the West End (the Lyric is its new home), the play is on its fifth new cast. Well, not all of the cast is new, as Jake Wood, EastEnders’ Max Branning, returns to the role of Ben after appearing in the original production back in 2021. Since then, several celebrity cast members have adorned previous casts including Tom Felton, Matt Willis and Lily Allen to name a few. It is no accident that 2:22 has become known as the Chicago of plays given its revolving door of famous names. And now, in an unlikely, or inspired piece of casting, the latest cast at the Lyric Theatre includes none other than Cheryl, yes Cheryl of Girls Aloud fame! Can the mononymous Geordie pop singer bring her star quality to this Olivier-nominated spookfest?

All Images by Helen Murray

Set in the house of married couple Sam (Scott Karim) and Jenny (Cheryl) with their newborn baby, the tension starts as we meet Jen, clearly on edge, who has finish painting a door frame and at 2.22am, we hear her screams through the baby monitor.

Fast forward to a few days later and Sam has returned from a trip and the couple are hosting their first dinner party since moving in to their Victorian doer-upper. Sam’s university friend Lauren (Louise Ford) brings Ben, her cockney builder boyfriend (he did her bathroom and never left).

Sam and Ben instantly clash and it’s clear that Jen and Sam are also having difficulties, leading to increasing tensions that don’t just stem from the potential ghostly happenings.

An argument with Sam about a window which appears to open itself leads to a confession from an exhausted Jen that she has heard ghostly footsteps in the baby’s nursery and the sound of a man crying  at the same time each night (you guessed it, 2:22 am) since Sam has been away.

On hearing that his wife genuinely believes the house to be haunted by a presence that means them harm for disrespecting the history of the house, Sam the cynic, who believes science has an answer to everything, questions Jen’s sanity. He also begins to wonder whether she, rather than the potential ghostly presence in the nursery, is a threat to their baby. 

In order to prove herself right, Jen convinces Sam and their dinner guests to to have a vigil, as you might in a haunted castle, and stay up to 2.22am to witness the mysterious goings-on for themselves.

The rest of play leads expectantly to the fateful moment of 2am and as the wine continues to flow, emotions are heightened, relationships questioned and beliefs are tested.

The success of Danny Robins’s super-smart script and story is his clearly-evident love of the ghost story genre. As the night goes on and the countdown inexorably continues, we are drawn into heated discussions and even a drinking game, challenging each other to prove or debunk the existence of ghosts. Themes of what causes fear, gaslighting, gentrification and religion are interwoven through the script as the four try and work out what is going on.

There is welcome humour throughout the script, which serves to break the tension and give light relief, but it never feels out of place and helps to give a realistic rounding to the characters.

Jake Wood in particular demonstrates a flair for comic timing and is hilarious as the rough-and-ready and yet surprising believer in all things spiritual. It’s Ben who leads a séance to flush out the potential spirit haunting the house, which leads to one of the scariest scenes in the play!

Cheryl gives an impressively confident and credible performance of the scared, tired and somewhat neurotic new mother. Her believable and relatable portrayal, rather than relying upon her star status, convinces you this is an everyday person – one that could easily be you given the same circumstances.

Set designer Anna Fleischle has created a simple realist set, which helps to set the domestic scene of a middle-class couple in the middle of renovating their Victorian home. It visualises the stripping back the layers of the past and revealing people who have previously lived there.

Director Matthew Dunster has successfully created a atmospheric sense of expectation and the potential threat of menace is present from the off. The tension never lets up, which leaves you in a state of unease thought out . Even though you know it’s just a ghost story, it’s such a well-realised scenario, you do think that this could be you in your own home.

If you enjoy a good old-fashioned ghost story or spooky shows such as Inside No. 9, then you will love this play. You’ll be on the edge of your seat throughout in a state of heightened suspense to the very end. What happens when the clock strikes 2.22am? No spoilers here, but the wait is definitely worth it!

2:22 is a modern day Woman in Black, which will be a great fix for those missing that spooky night out!

Cheryl delivers a performance that’s Something Kinda Good in The Show that will make you Jump A ★★★★★ 5-star thrill

2:22 A Ghost Story Tickets

2:22 A Ghost Story runs at the Lyric Theatre until 23 April 2023

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