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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Ghost Stories

Lyric Hammersmith Theatre Spring 2010; Duke of York's Theatre 2010-2011; Arts Theatre 2014-2015; Ambassadors Theatre 2019-2020

Suitably underlit, the vaguely gothic interior of the Lyric Theatre does become a satisfyingly atmospheric setting for an evening of shocks and horrors, even before the show starts.

And I'm afraid that is just about the last positive thing I have to say about Ghost Stories, though I have to note that those members of the audience (generally young, female and in groups) eager to shriek whenever the play did the theatrical equivalent of shouting 'Boo!' had a wonderful time.

Written by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, and directed by them and Sean Holmes, the show begins with Nyman as a sceptical lecturer on ghostology, offering a quick and entertaining lantern slide history of spook sightings and then presenting three anecdotes which are acted out for us.

A night watchman glimpses something scary in a warehouse, a motorist on a dark road feels he is not alone, and a father-to-be encounters a poltergeist in the nursery. There is then a surprise twist ending, which I won't give away, except to say that if you try to guess at it, it will be one of the options you reject as too obvious and banal.

In each case the characters and stories are not developed much beyond my brief summaries, except that each of the protagonists is given a secret guilt that could have generated a hallucination. And in each case the scares are elementary, abrupt and the theatrical equivalent of shouting 'Boo!' - sudden loud noises, something glimpsed in the sweep of the watchman's torch, a face popping up in the car window, books dropping off a shelf.

Though there is programme credit to a special effects designer, the effects amount to little more than a quick-moving stagehand, and after a while you are likely to become more interested in the group psychology that leads the girls to will themselves into being scared than in anything going on onstage.

Nicholas Burns, David Cardy and Ryan Cage play the hauntees (along with an unnamed fifth actor as Various Ghosts) with admirably straight faces.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of  Ghost Stories - Lyric Hammersmith 2010

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