Steeped in cinematic and televisual references that include the Amicus anthologies and classic horror films such as Dead of Night, Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s triptych of scary stories opens with the stage draped in police tape, while ominous music pulsates in the background. The show began life at Liverpool Playhouse and the Lyric Hammersmith in 2010 before transferring to the West End for a 13-month run and touring internationally. Now it’s back in London with even bigger scares.
Audiences are asked not to give away the secrets of Ghost Stories, and this is indeed a piece that relies on surprise. Taking the form of a lecture delivered by parapsychologist Professor Greenwood, the production takes the form of three separate stories, the strongest of which is the first, featuring Philip Whitchurch’s haunted nightwatchman.
A love of traditional stage magic permeates the play, and there’s more than a dash of the renowned spine-tingler producer William Castle to proceedings. However, the production suffers from unsatisfying internal logic and is very uneven, the middle section being the weakest in this regard by some way.
Again and again, the show goes for the easy, sweeping, jolt-in-your-seat shock over anything more psychologically unsettling. And yet it’s the more understated scares – the creepy, half-glimpsed moments – that deliver the biggest shivers, rather than the ghosts swooping across the room.
It’s a shame the production seems to have stopped trusting its audience in this regard. It shouts where it could whisper, and misses no opportunity to jump around and yell ‘boo’.
- Arts Theatre, London
- February 27-May 24
- Authors: Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman
- Directors: Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman, Sean Holmes
- Producers: Fiery Angel, Limelight Productions
- Cast includes: Paul Kemp, Chris Levens, Gary Shelford, Philip Whitchurch
- Running time: 1hr 20mins