2:22 A Ghost Story at The Alexandra Theatre – running until 20 January

Words by Ed King / Production pics by Johan Persson

“If Ghosts don’t exist, then why do people see them…?”

It’s a fair question, the eternal question, and for Danny Robins it has become an obsession underpinning a career. The one-time standup comedian has done OK from the undead, having penned and produced such well known podcasts as Haunted, The Battersea Poltergeist, and Uncanny.

But for most of us the idea of ghosts can produce fear, scorn, doubt, or even comfort, which is the game play for the four principal characters in 2:22 A Ghost Story – called as such because at 2:22am every morning Jenny (Fiona Wade) hears a man shuffling and crying in her daughter’s bedroom.

Her husband, Sam (George Rainsford), is away on a business trip and Jenny is left in a new and unfamiliar house alone … or is she?

The play is set in the living room and kitchen, with Sam’s old friend and possibly more, Lauren (Vera Chok), invited round for a dinner party, with the challenge being to stay up until the row of twos appear on the kitchen clock. Lauren’s brought Ben (Jay McGuiness) her new flame, thermostat expert, oh yeah and son of a medium – helpful when you literally offer a poltergeist a seat at the table.

Sam is ‘team sceptic’ and Jenny is ‘team believer’, phrases any listener of the podcast Uncanny will be all too familiar with, and Lauren and Ben are the grey area in between.

There’s character backstory that bring some familiar facets of the ghost delusion (hat tip to Dickie) to the fore, such as Jenny’s religious background and Sam’s unwavering need to prove his position – as well as Lauren’s need to challenge and Ben’s personal experience of fitting in.

But in essence it’s a discussion, one I’d suspect most people watching the play will have had at one point or another – otherwise they’d be in a different theatre. And the acting across the board is superb, with some standout first night confidence from Jay McGuiness – the cast member with more singing and dancing credits on his portfolio that down the line drama.

The lighting is simple and effective too, using blackouts (and I mean blackouts, I overheard one of the front of house staff kvetching about trying to find their way out of the stalls), lightning strike strobes, and framing the whole thing in a bold red border that creeps you out in between scenes.

I would have a word with whomever is operating the smoke machine though, which comes into play every time Ben pops backstage (the garden) for a cigarette, as they could do with taking their finger off the button a bit earlier – unless the laughs from the front row were some intended light relief.

Confidently directed by Matthew Dunster and Isobel Marr, firm hands with excellent credentials covering both established drama and new writing, this is a play that lives or dies (pun intended) on the strength of the script and those delivering it.

So, let’s look at that with the lights on. Save a few swear words that might surprise someone who followed the 12+ age guidance to the letter, it’s brilliant.

It’s not Shakespeare or Pinter, and it’s not trying to be – 2:22 A Ghost Story is a play about a possibly haunted house in modern day Greater London and the relationships between and behind the people on stage experiencing it – and by proxy, us all off stage too. And it works.

In fact, the weakest moment is the one bit I can’t tell you about, but you’ll probably love it (I can be ‘team sceptic’ when it comes to script writing) and by the time the penny drops it won’t affect your night out either way.

2:22 A Ghost Story is an engaging, funny, sometimes scary look at paranormal phenomena – beautifully acted by the 2024 cast. And if you’ve been interested enough in ghosts and ghost stories to read this review, you’ll love it.

2:22 A Ghost Story runs at The Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham until 20 January, with a BSL performance at 2:30pm on Saturday 20 January. For more information and direct links to online ticket sales, visit: www.222aghoststory.com

For more from The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham, visit: www.atgtickets.com/venues/the-alexandra-theatre-birmingham/