* Prices may differ from that shown
I cannot express just how disappointing this show was. At no point was I or any of my party even the tiniest bit scared. We had been really looking forward to this. What a waste of time and money. To create any kind of fear, the writers need to feed the audiences imagination - this was told in a very boring university lecturer style. I have seen many shows and this is the very first I have felt let down by. No-one around us was scared either. I would have walked out in disgust but I just kept thinking that surely it must pick up soon. It didn't.
I recieved tickets to see the above show at Duke of York on St Martins Lane. Before attending I was very excited and abit scared actually, as I had been online and watched the trailor for the show. This is unlike any other west end show, which I thought was going to be amazing. I was very very very disappointed. The set is amazing, and it's decorated to suit the show, with a safety screen on display and scary sounds and screams coming from all directions, with random numbers scratched into the theatre walls. To my disappointment this was the most scared I was going to be all night long. I can't give away the plot of the show, as they do ask the audience to keep it a secret, however I can say that the show is JUMPY rather than SCARY. They use loud noises and bright lights to make you jump rather than actually scare you. There were times the audience was laughing rather than screaming as the set and the props used were crap and not at all good, so I'm not sure if they have a big budget. The cast consists of 8 people, so it's a low budget show compared to the rest on show in the west end. There is a twist at the end, but for those who have watched alot of movies then you'll probably guess the twist half way through the show. I have read many reviews regarding this show, and many say it's scary and many say it's not, so I think it just depends on the person. But i really hated the fact my sister spend £100 on 2 tickets as I see it as a waste of money, if you are not scared by scary movies, then please don't go to see this, it's crap. it's just jumpy and not scary at all.
I would suspect, like me, most of the people making their way into the Duke of York theatre, would have brushed off the disclaimers that adorn the tickets, websites and even the billboards outside the theatre, because how can a play be that terrifying? Well, as I have since discovered, in the time that Ghost Stories has been out and about, first at the Liverpool Playhouse, then the Lyric Hammersmith and now the Duke of York, there are numerous accounts of people leaving after ten minutes and refusing to return, people fainting and St John's Ambulance having to be on hand. I personally sunk as far down into my seat and huddled as close to my boyfriend as possible until I was practically under his armpit. What is even sadder is that I did this ten minutes before the play even started. The reason being that the corridors that lead to the auditorium and the auditorium itself are decked out with hazard tape and random numbers chalked on the walls, a soundtrack of whistling winds and dripping water is played and all there is to light the theatre as you take your seat are dim bulbs that flicker. Yet I was still sure at that point that a play won't make me jump like a film can. I was wrong. I jumped a lot more than I have done when watching any film, even my boyfriend, who is never scared by films, almost jumped out of his seat too. I think it was so scary because the 'things' (I don't want to give anything away), that produced the shocks were there, right in front of you, in proper 3D. It felt like you were actually watching that video from The Ring when that girl creeps out of the TV. This was only enhanced by the sounds that, in parts, whispered around the theatre, one minute coming from your left then the right and then from behind you. Then there is the smell, in one of the three vignettes that make up the play, the whole auditorium is filled with the smell of hospital disinfectant, putting you right in the middle of the action. The lighting also achieves this because as one of the characters carries his torch on his rounds of a derelict building in the early hours of the morning and another drives through woods at night with his head lights on, the light beams out not only across the dark stage but the dark auditorium so that you can't see what's going on, or what's coming next. What was great about it was that the whole audience seemed to laugh out loud, scream and hold their breath collectively. It is like being on the biggest, best ghost train, because you do feel like you are strapped in and heading towards the events, then spun around and sped off in another direction. And yes, it is funny as well as frightening, sometimes you find yourself chuckling to the most bizarre or harrowing things. In that sense fans of The League of Gentlemen (which the plays co-writer Jeremy Dyson wrote with Reece Shearsmith, Mark Gatiss and Steve Pemberton) or Psychoville won't be disappointed, but don't go expecting a laugh a minute like you get in these sitcoms because the focus is on horror in this play. If you are a fan of Derren Brown, you won't be disappointed either as there are parts that could have come straight from one of his TV or stage shows. That's because Andy Nyman, who co-wrote and appears in Ghost Stories as parapsychologist Professor Philip Goodman, is the co-creator of them. If you have little experience of the above shows just go with it, don't take it too seriously, and you will enjoy it too. Ghost Stories is at the Duke of York theatre in London's West End until February 2011, I highly recommend it.
This play started its life in the Liverpool Playhouse before moving to the Lyric Hammersmith, which is where I saw it. I'm not surprised to see it transfer to the West End, as it's a crowd-pleaser that should do well, and it deserves wider exposure. It's a spooky treat co-written by Jeremy Dyson of the League of Gentlemen and Andy Nyman, who has worked on Derren Brown's stuff. The play notionally takes the form of a lecture by a sceptical parapsychology professor. He sets out to convince us that ghosts don't exist by telling us three supposedly real-life ghost stories he's found in the course of his research. These form the meat of the play: three short, spooky encounters, effectively one-man shows in which respectively a nightwatchman at a storage facility; a student driving alone at night through a forest; and an arrogant City type waiting for news of his hospitalised wife are all faced with profoundly unsettling stuff. Naturally enough, the lecturer himself isn't quite what he seems. This play is all done very well. The lecturer projects slides onto a safety curtain, behind which the set for each story is slid noiselessly into place, and you can't really fault this, technically. The sets for each story are very good (the car is perhaps a bit weak, but it has to be set up in a certain way for all the various effects to work properly). It makes use of light and - especially - darkness extremely well, with characters shining lights out into the audience at key moments presumably to stop us noticing what's being set up in the darkness behind them. It even infuses the theatre with a smell of bleach at one point. But ultimately this is judged on whether it's scary. I personally wasn't frightened, but I don't hold that against it. The first 20 minutes or so builds our unease very well. There's a particularly good freaky photo. The nightwatchman's story goes on for ages before anything nasty happens, just slowly building the suspense. A bit where he's doing his rounds, shining a torch around an otherwise pitch black stage and auditorium, while the faint strains of Anthony Newley's 'Why' can be heard in the background is really unsettling. The anticipation for the big scares that seemed sure to come was palpable. But sadly, as with almost all horror really, the suspense generated is far more substantial than the payoff. The spectral manifestations are well done (with one hilarious exception) but are just slightly banal after all the anticipation. There's also an over-reliance on loud noises to make us jump. It's a very clever story; perhaps a bit too clever. Everything ties in rather too tidily at the end, and there are clues scattered throughout as to what's going on (some of which are very obviously clues). The audience is asked not to give the ending away, and I wouldn't dream of doing so, but this feels like slightly less than the sum of its parts. The inevitable comparison is with the stage version of Susan Hill's Woman in Black, and it borrows from that a bit in its self-conscious theatricality and in various plot elements. As a well-versed horror fan I could spot where a lot of the ideas in this come from (one is a very obvious steal from an episode of 70s Dr Who, which was re-stolen by the latest series of Who). That's not really a criticism, though, as something like this probably has pastiche written into its remit, and I guess most people won't notice. Top marks to them for using the music from Deep Red as an opening and closing theme, as well. I don't think I'm necessarily the target audience. Most of the people there were younger than me, and most of them were having a fine old time screaming away and then laughing at themselves for screaming. The people in front of me had got themselves so scared they were pointing in terror at bits of the stage where nothing at all was happening, convinced they were seeing phantoms that weren't there. They obviously got good value for money, and it's a great, fun, ghost train ride of a play, especially if there's a good, giggly, responsive audience. Even a cynical, old-but-still-handsome know-it-all like me has to admit to being impressed with the effect this had on da kids. All four characters are really well acted. Especial praise goes to co-author Nyman as the professor, although he perhaps makes the transition from likeable, engaging teacher to arrogant Dawkins-style sceptic a bit suddenly. The script is very good, and it knows when to throw in a bit of humour in the middle of the scariest bits, to keep the laughs coming along with the screams. This might not keep you awake at night, but that's not its purpose. It's a fun romp, and if it doesn't completely draw you in, it should at least leave you impressed with how flawlessly executed it is. It's recommended for over 15s only, although inevitably the warnings on the poster about how scary it is are a bit OTT. The play has only just opened at the Duke of York's theatre on St Martin's Lane (just round the corner from Leicester Square Tube). This is one of the less ghastly West End theatres, and also one of the smaller ones. This is important, as this is quite an intimate play that relies on people not being too far away from the stage. The last huge success that transferred from the Lyric Hammersmith to the West End was Shockheaded Peter, which felt a bit lost in a larger theatre. The problem with the new setting is the price. The cheapest tickets appear to be £22.50, and they go up to £40+. This is best seen by students and people in their early 20s - people who might well be put off by the price tag. I'm sure most audiences will enjoy it, but the people it seems most appropriate for will probably be priced out. Still, I guess that's the trade-off. Anyway, if you have that kind of disposable income this is well worth seeing.