Ghost Stories Theatre Review
Written and directed by Sean Holmes, Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman
Not many experiences can provoke both tears of laughter and sweats of fear in the space of 80 minutes. It's an unatural pairing of feelings. So the fact that Ghost Stories instills generous helpings of both is no small feat.
Ghost Stories first took stage in 2010 at the Liverpool Playhouse and has since been shown in London, as well as America and Russia. Now, having undergone some changes to set designs and narrative content and structure, Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson's supernatural tales return to the capital at The Arts Centre to spook folks those that dare to confront it or, in my case, wish to relive it.
Professor Goodman, played by Paul Kemp, takes the helm, prompting questions about real-life supernatural theories and offering rational explanations for some of the most puzzling cases in our history.
His narrative framework brackets each three of his clients' (or 'percipients') ghostly experiences, told and reenacted on stage in sequence. First, a night watchman Tony (Philip Whitcgurch), followed by schoolboy Simon (Chris Levens), and finally pompous businessman Mike (Gary Shelford) - each terrifying in their own grave, atmospheric sets, and delicate handling of suspenseful subtleties alongside overt theatrics.
But as driven as it is by scare factor, comedy shares the ride too, taking the wheel intermittently to put you in back in a false sense of comfort. And it works.
You might not think a Scots joke or the line "my granny was raped by a viking" would have a place in horror. But, actually, Shelford's flashy, arrogant character dishes out a few memorable lines to take home. The Book Of Mormon, step aside.
If you've seen the production before, the three stories are loosely the same but better interconnected to the outlining discussions and surfacing fate of the professor. This time round, structure has more flow, the journey is more immersive, and the ending has all the bells and whistles to ensure you're left feeling a bit hot under the collar.
Without losing the charm of its staging's simplicity, sets are more elaborate and effectively tap into the concept of sensual participation.
All-in-all, Ghost Stories is a spectacular revamp; a head-rush ride into the unnerving unknown of the supernatural that amuses as much as thrills.
Oh and a final kudos to the introducing score... If anything can put you in the mood for a spook show, it's Goblin!