Yesterday, accompanied by Her Indoors, I went to the matinee performance of a touring version of the fifth West End production – the first had premiered in 2021 – of Danny Robins’ highly-regarded dramatic play 2:22 A GHOST STORY at the Chichester Festival Theatre.
In its time it has already won a shedload of nominations and awards and has been mounted in many “local” productions around the world.
I have always enjoyed going to the theatre even though – in any overall context – in my lifetime I have probably attended far fewer plays and shows in the flesh than most who make that claim.
Theatre programmes are often useful tools and yesterday’s was a case in point, containing an insightful and thought-provoking introductory piece by the play’s author (of whom I’d never previously heard) explaining his long-held interest in ghosts and paranormal “goings on”.
I like to profess to being a sceptic on most subjects in Life, despite – e.g. with religion – also being polite and respectful in the company of those who hold different views to mine.
At a fundamental level, in my view, anything that assists anyone get through their particular version of human existence is a good thing.
Some of my best friends are “believers” and I am happy to admit that they have something in their lives that I do not, albeit that this fact would never (of itself) prompt me to alter my own take upon such matters.
For yesterday’s matinee performance the theatre was about two-thirds full.
The set and the staging of the play – the action taking place in the ground floor living area of a “modernised” metropolitan period house – were impressive although I found the occasional sudden “flashes” of light and sound, signifying a change in time and/or circumstances, unnecessarily over-loud.
In support of this contention I would cite the fact that in the past year or so friends and family have begun suggesting to me that I should get my hearing tested – hinting that, perhaps through age alone, it may be fading.
My point here being that, if I thought the sound effects were deafening, they surely were!
(I should add there were other times in the performance when, such was the timing and intensity of the actors’ exchanges, I was unable to catch some of what was being said or shouted).
The actors playing the two couples involved – coming together for a dinner – that is to say, Vera Chok and Jay McGuinness as one pair – and George Rainford and Fiona Wade as the other, had plenty of lines to deliver with the last of these – as hostess of the meal – “setting the ball rolling” by revealing her conviction that the house was haunted.
A discussion ensured upon whether or not ghosts actually existed and, if so, for what purpose and how.
The action became more complex as the guest husband revealed he believed in ghosts – whilst the host husband clearly didn’t.
[I am seeking here not to provide a “spoiler” here for those readers who may yet go to see this play].
The debate on the subject that followed, covering many aspects of the subject, was played out against the deadline in the play’s title reference to “2.22”, the time in the morning at which the hostess claimed paranormal incidents had occurred for the previous four consecutive days.
The couples eventually agreed to stay up together until 0220 hours in order to see what happened (which in itself might presumably settle the arguments).
As in all good horror/suspense pieces, there is a major twist at the end of the plot, but for reasons already given shall not reveal what it is.
Overall, I would give yesterday’s performance 7 marks out of 10.
On a negative note, some of the acting on display was better than others and some passages of the script seemed to go nowhere in particular and/or came across to this observer as “general business” that added little or nothing to the whole and at times jarred or bored.
On the positive side, however, plenty of discussion points were raised to be taken away by the punters and – returning to an earlier comment – the general theatre experience was life-enhancing.
After a dreadfully slow “get away” from the local car park on the last occasion we attended the Chichester Festival Theatre, I’m pleased to report that this time our advance scheme as to where we would park and the urgency with which we should depart the theatre after the show worked like a treat.