Ghost Stories at the Arts Theatre
Ghost Stories, written by Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson, is a horror show returning to the West End after a 13-month run at the Duke of York’s Theatre in July 2011, followed by international performances in Moscow and Toronto.
Staged in the dark, claustrophobic auditorium of the Arts Theatre, audience members are made to feel apprehensive from the start as they sit on creaking seats, after having observed dripping in the toilets and walked past numbers etched into the auditorium walls on their way in.
The 80-minute-long show comprises three short ghost stories recounted by three disparate, unlikely characters, framed by the narration of the sceptical parapsychologist professor Goodman.
Following the final twist at the end of the show, a tannoy implores the audience to “keep the secrets of Ghost Stories“. Indeed the ongoing success of the show has relied on, amongst other things, the suspense sustained by viewers’ observation of this promise. But it is not only this which explains how the spectacle has been viewed by over 350,000 people worldwide. The show is as much a physical experience as it is a fictional one, with spooky, chilling, scream-inducing and seat-jolting moments aplenty.
Ghost Stories is also thought-provoking. It opens with the professor, played by Paul Kemp, exploring the rational basis of human beings attachment to horrific experiences as a paid form of entertainment. In doing so, he eases their apprehension cultivated by the spooky surroundings, before suddenly throwing them off balance with the first of many shock moments.
Lighting and sound effects cleverly support the delivery of screams, shudders and shock-inducing moments. At times, however, the lighting creates a slightly overbearing contrast between darkness and light which, though conducive to building tension and unease, borders on distracting. The script is varied in sophistication, ranging from the verbosity of the Professor through to the cackling of the yuppie father-to-be. Pace is maintained by the lack of interval, the equal distribution of shuddery moments and the suspense created in the lead-up to the “secret” twist.
Ghost Stories is at the Arts Theatre until 24th May 2014. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch co-writer Andy Nyman talk about the production here: