“I was not alone!”
There’s something perfect about ghost stories being told in a theatrical context. The notion of an audience sitting in the dark and collectively getting spooked as a shared experience has something of the timeless tradition of telling scary stories around a fire.
The Bridge House Theatre’s Artistic Director Luke Adamson has skilfully adapted, The Green Room, a short story by Walter de La Mare (a Victorian writer who lived in the vicinity of the South London pub theatre for a quarter of a century).
The Girl in the Green Room tells the story of Thomas, a writer who takes shelter on a stormy night in a hidden-away bookshop he had never noticed before. Venturing in, he finds the place entirely deserted. With the inclement weather showing no sign of easing up, he picks a book and settles down in an armchair to read by candlelight. Of course, this being a spooky tale, it does not take long before he begins to hear unexplained knocking. Investigating the sound, he ventures deeper into the darker, dustier recesses of the bookshop. A narrow crack of light behind an old mahogany bookcase suggests the existence of a hidden room… Naturally we are not going to give away any more but needless to say the plays title might give you a clue what Thomas will find…
…but what we can reveal is that The Girl in The Green Room is one of the best productions you are likely to find in any London pub theatre this year. Adamson’s script is a masterpiece of slowly and inexorably ratcheting up the tension. Set in 1910, the lyrical script soon gives way to more staccato dialogue as the protagonist (and indeed the audience) feels increasingly frightened. Jump-scares are judiciously but effectively deployed. But what Adamson understands is that nothing is more frightening than your imagination and ruthlessly weaves unnerving tropes into the script to the point when the lights go out, your mind lurches at what might appear out of the darkness…
Joseph Lindoe, the Associate Director of Bridge House Theatre, puts in an outstanding dramatic performance as Thomas. His exemplary pacing of his character arc, from a starting point, if not of complacency, then certainly of confidence, into a downwards spiral of curiosity then fear, is realistic and convincing. Performing technically in a black box room with only an armchair and a writing bureau for physical props, you are rivetted as he ventures deeper and deeper into the story.
What perhaps sets this production above and beyond what might be expected in even an Off West End show, is the technical design of the show. While this Victorian pub’s walls are lit to reflect the red of the bookshop or the green on the titular space, the effect is create a growing sense that you are equally contained within the shop as Thomas. As he paces ever-more concentric routes, you feel affected by the growing claustrophobia. While Lindoe meticulously mimes a candlestick throughout, JLA Productions‘ light flickers atmospherically…until it doesn’t. It’s rare that you notice good sound design – it’s usually bad SFX that catch the ear – but the production team has crafted a pitch-perfect soundscape to fire up the imagination and grow the initial awareness of a different presence.
The Woman In Black and 2:22 A Ghost Story need to look to their laurels. The Girl In The Green Room is the new, must-see, atmospheric ghost story that will have you looking over your shoulder as you head out into the night after a brilliant theatre trip of spooky thrills. This is a show that needs to tour.
A top-class Autumnal spooking – ★★★★★ 5 scary stars