2:22 A Ghost Story is the most chilling play JASON D. BRAWN has seen since The Woman in Black. Here’s his review of the Danny Robins’ penned play.
On my first visit to the theatre since lockdown, it felt great being there but I was a little nervous when the auditorium was packed with theatregoers. However, seeing Danny Robins’ play, following the brilliant and chilling 8-part podcast telling a real-life ghost story, The Battersea Poltergeist, I had to watch this play.
Hell no, I am not a Lilly Allen fan, nor an Eastenders aficionado. But was mighty impressed with the performance and setting, and will explain why 2:22 A Ghost Story is the most chilling play since Stephen Mallatratt’s excellent adaptation of The Woman in Black.
Set in the present time, following a housewarming dinner party, Jenny (Lily Allen), a teacher and new mum, is convinced that their newly purchased house, which she’s renovating with her self-righteous husband Sam (Hadley Fraser), is haunted.
Jenny believes that she’s been hearing weeps and footsteps in her baby daughter’s room at 02:22 for four nights in a row. This causes friction with her husband, who keeps throwing rational explanations behind these ghostly encounters. Also included in the housewarming are Sam’s university friend Lauren (Julia Chan), a psychoanalyst, and her cheeky Cockney live-in partner Ben (Jake Wood), who’s a construction worker.
Like Nia DaCosta’s Candyman (2021), gentrification is one of the themes of this play. This also gives a reason why middle-class couple Jenny and Sam were able to afford a house, for a knockdown price, in what could be in the London borough of Newham. The sole theme of the play is class tensions. Most notably, when Ben is feeling uncomfortable in the company of university-educated professionals, giving the reason why he keeps cracking jokes and displaying a lack of etiquette when he’s eating.
This portrayal of discussing class conflict round the dinner table, in a haunted house, did remind me of a 1972 Dead of Night episode, titled “The Exorcism”.
Ben’s depiction does become more likable during the play when Sam is more annoying with his superior complex attitude. We also learn that Jenny is repressed and feels controlled and wonders if she does love him. In a nutshell, Ben expresses to Lauren what he thinks of Sam, which mirrors the audience’s accurate perception.
But it is Ben who is the most resourceful of the group. Ben once had a paranormal experience and helps Jenny with her problem, serving as a spiritualist. Interesting how Robins’s characters each have a meaning in this story. Lauren being a Freudian expert and Sam knowing a lot about science, especially astronomy, shows what each character brings to the story.
There is even a debate concerning ghosts as being the marginalised, either as homeless people, refugees, or sufferers of dementia. Or it could be the past returning to the present as a lost future (hauntology).
As an audience member, I did pick up a lot of clues, during the play that were later answered within the last few minutes.
Overall, the play is tight and there is no plodding. The performance is brilliant, and it surprises me that this is Lily Allen’s West End debut. As well as the play being creepy, it is also funny and the ending is a shocker. An ending that caused the whole audience to gasp.
There have been many great horror plays, like Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson’s Ghost Stories, but this play, running till 16 October 2021, deserves to have a longer run.
A well-directed play by Matthew Dunster, which I would love to see again, maybe in time for Halloween…
Watch 2:22 A Ghost Story interview with Danny Robins