2:22 A Ghost Story review: Is Lily Allen’s West End debut any good? | Theatre | Entertainment

Focussing all eyes on Lily Allen for this new play is not only stunt casting, it additionally slyly pulls focus from all of the clues which can be slickly scattered elsewhere all through this fitfully entertaining spooky thriller. The former chart-topper performs terrified middle-class spouse Jenny, satisfied a weeping ghost is haunting her new child child’s bed room each evening at exactly 2.22am. Her pompous educational husband Sam (Hadley Fraser) belittles her fears so she persuades their dinner visitors – his outdated college chum, psychiatrist Lauren (Julia Chan) and her new boyfriend, working-class handyman Ben (EastEnders’ Jake Wood) – to remain by means of to the early hours. 

Lily Allen has particular presence and handles a demanding function that requires her to be as twitchy bodily as she is emotionally – continuously transferring, fussing, cooking and tidying on the best way to a meltdown.

There are moments of palpable emotion, particularly in the direction of the top. But from her opening scream as she stumbles over a toy on the ground, it seems her job is to maintain us on edge with the stridently clipped and brittle voice and mannerisms of an grownup Hermione Granger. More usually than not, it put me on edge. It seems like she was instructed to promote the hysteria from the beginning, however this leaves her nowhere to go, besides ever extra shrill. This is exacerbated by the supply of each single line like it’s an pressing announcement, with a relentless upkick in intonation. With the cast absolutely miked, there isn’t any must project each phrase to the rafter.

READ MORE: Review: Sir Ian McKellen in Hamlet at Theatre Royal Windsor is a valiant however muddled experiment

Fraser’s Sam is equally overblown in his relentlessly irritating superiority. We all know the kind however there have to be extra to him than that, certainly? Crucially, any purported love and connection between the central couple by no means convinces.

Wood, in the meantime, impresses. He can do wide-boy geezer in his sleep however he lands each simple snort with easy aptitude after which layers in coiled resentment and rage with sudden vulnerability. He is matched by a measured efficiency from Chan, who, alone, is given a personality that has quieter moments. It highlights how little else on stage is given house to breathe.

This is mirrored in a play that too usually confuses tempo for stress, character tropes for texture. Suspense works finest with creepingly quieter moments between the scares however even the pretend fog outdoors the kitchen doorways overdoes it, wildly swirling like dry ice at a disco. Tension is ramped up by a clanking ‘horror’ soundscape punctuated by the repeated screams of fornicating foxes outdoors. Some viewers members definitely responded audibly to the repeated use of a loud shriek and flashing pink lights on the finish of each single scene. After the primary time, I discovered it predictable and wearying.

Playwright Danny Robbins has a background in radio performs and paranormal podcasts with a agency, cleaning soap opera grip on propelling a plot. The potshots at middle-class gentrification (pithily summed up as the kind of individuals who have “expensive doors and cheap Albanians” to do the work) land properly. I used to be much less impressed with the play’s self-satisfied bleeding coronary heart over displaced working-class communities or the try to one way or the other crowbar in a comparability between the plight of refugees and ghosts making the perilous crossing to go to the residing.

Robbins properly pink herrings us all through by maintaining the concentrate on the personal dynamics. I used to be happy that I did not see the large twist coming, even when it has been famously performed much better elsewhere. But I am unable to assist feeling this is able to work extra successfully on the radio, leaving the viewers house to think about the chills themselves.

Ultimately, like all one of the best ghost tales, the human four-way dynamic on stage has the potential to be far more attention-grabbing than the phantom framework. Frustratingly, even the large reveal rushed frantically by leaving the characters and the viewers no time to mirror and react.


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