When Lauren and Ben visit their friends Sam and Jenny for dinner, the last thing they are expecting is to be witnesses to a supernatural event. Or are they? As the night approaches, the four friends delve deeper into the supernatural and the existence of something beyond death that will challenge all their beliefs. Written by Danny Robbins, 2:22: A Ghost Story takes a common domestic setting and turns it into a nightmare for our two couples. What happens when what should be the safest place in your world is the one causing you to be most afraid?
2:22: A Ghost Story comes with chills and thrills (and some screams) but only if your idea of having the hairs on your arm stand is brought on by plenty of jump scares, which are generally lazy and uninspiring. Ian Dickinson’s sound design largely consists of random screams and foxes fornicating that are repeated ad nauseam. The moments of tension are more successful when the concept of “less is more” is applied, such as when Ben recalls his past encounters with ghosts. The finale gives the show a spine-tingling send off, but it is directed rapidly and awkwardly by Matthew Dunster and diminishes the frightening revelation that has come to pass.
It's clear the four actors (Gemma Ward, Ruby Rose, Daniel Macpherson and Remy Hii) are still finding their feet as their characters, but also as an ensemble. Their pacing and delivery is often unnatural and rushed, impacting the development of the characters and the interactions with each other. Ward has the task of portraying a woman who has reached the end of her tether but unfortunately her wooden performance comes across as an actor simply reciting her lines. Playing drunk is always a challenge, trying to get the balance correct of not being ham-fisted or over the top, and Rose is unconvincing as drunk, or as sober. Her performance as psychiatrist Lauren is comedic when it should be dramatic, and stale when it should be funny.
Daniel MacPherson and Remy Hii start off excessive and exaggerated with their roles, but they get hold of their confidence and relax into them as the show progresses, bringing depth and realism to these men. MacPherson ends up providing the most committed and authentic performance but is dragged down by his on-stage partner in which he shares many of his scenes with.
The set design by Anna Fleischle of Sam and Jenny’s kitchen, dining and living areas conveys
the history of the house they live in and its contemporary appearance. There
are a number of areas that can easily play tricks on your mind and doors that lead
to other areas of the home, adding to the possibilities of anything lurking in
the dark. Similarly, the large open space, with an emptiness between the kitchen and the living room, hints that there are things we aren't seeing here.
Presenting horror in theatre is not easy due to the limitations on how you can generate true terror. When it’s done well on stage, it creates such an intense environment you can forget that you’ve been holding your breath the entire time. 2:22: A Ghost Story is not this experience. A rethink on how this is directed, how it is performed and how to deliver genuine scares is needed to leave a haunting impression on audience.
Venue: Her Majesty's Theatre, 219 Exhibition St, Melbourne
Season: Until 20 August | Mon 6:30pm, Wed - Fri 7:30pm, Sat 2pm and 7:30pm, Sun 1pm and 6pm
Duration: 100 minutes
Tickets: $69 - $159
Image credit: Eugene Hyland