Straight theatre’s a new one for the site but we saw an offer for discounted tickets, went through all the reviews on the website claiming the show to be ‘terrifying’ and thought, why not give it a go?
The story had an odd frame to it; one that we later discovered was not present in the source material. It begins with a man, Mr Kipps, hiring an actor to help him better recount his real-life tale of the paranormal. Rather than seeing the events first-hand, we are seeing the recreation staged by these two characters. It felt a bit meta, reminding us of the ‘Scream’ movie series. For the second half, this was largely dropped, presumably in an attempt to sustain the building tension as the story reached its conclusion.
It was a fairly conventional ghost story in that a character visits a haunted house, encounters a ghost that came to exist through tragedy and eventually learns what that tragedy was. We don’t think it’s fair to say much more than that.
Did we find it scary? Not really. Expect a few jump scares but not much else. It’s not a problem for the play, just some of the reviews extolling the horror aspects of the story err on the side of hyperbole. It’s more subtly creepy than nerve-shredding. We may have been a bit disappointed after experiencing shows like ‘Ghost Stories’ in the past…
The chemistry between the two characters was fun and made the play a lot more comedic than we’d expected, to the point where we’d say that the balance between scares and laughs was surprisingly even.
That framing device, we’re not sure why it exists. As mentioned, we had no familiarity with the source material before taking our seats (and we haven’t seen the recent movie adaptation either) so we had no expectations whatsoever. Even then, it just didn’t really sit right. The cynics in us would venture that production budget played some part in this decision when it was first written for the stage. Setting it in a theatre and having characters perform the story excuses a lack of finesse where set design etc. is concerned. Not to say that this was a sloppy production, just that there didn’t seem to be a good reason to tell the story in this fashion.
This is a difficult one to rate! It was a good play but we did expect a lot more considering the critics’ quotes that the website proudly flaunts. You would definitely enjoy yourself watching it, just be aware that it’s equal parts horror and comedy and the scares are, by and large, toothless. The story is engaging however and we reckon people of all ages (and dispositions) would have a good night out with it!
Rating: *** (Out of 5) – Flawed but worth checking out
Ticket Price: £19.50 to £49.50 depending on date and seats.
Address: Russell Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2B 5HH
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(***** Must Go!, **** Recommend, *** Flawed but worth checking out, ** Prepare to be disappointed, * Avoid!)