REVIEW: GHOST STORIES (Lyric Hammersmith) ★★★★★

There have been a few different versions of Ghost Stories that have been produced since it was first put on at the Lyric Hammersmith in 2010, and with each version, the scare factor has been increased. With the recent release of the film version fresh in many people’s minds and the stage version returning to its original home, the pressure was on to get it right. And they definitely have.

From the moment you step foot in the theatre, there is an eerie atmosphere with sound effects playing throughout the foyer and even messages on the walls of the bathrooms, making it a somewhat immersive experience. Lights flickering and decorations hinting at the impending story throughout the auditorium create a sense of tension before the audience has even sat down.

The play is an anthology of three seemingly random ghost experiences initially introduced by our parapsychologist narrator Professor Goodman, played by Simon Lipkin. He plays the role of a slightly bumbling but charismatic academic effectively, breaking the fourth wall to engage the audience in his opening monologue and lulling us into a false sense of security before things start to get scary. With only 4 actors in the play, the pressure was on for each to carry their stories and they all did. Each of the actors gave good performances (Garry Cooper as a night watchman, Preston Nyman as a student soon to start university and Richard Sutton as a suited city worker) and each was able to convey the fear that their characters felt during their paranormal experience.

The sound, lighting and set were all superb. With more speakers being used than lights, the sound effects were pivotal to the production. Darkness is used just as effectively as lights, much to the dread of the audience. Set pieces moved flawlessly across the stage, transporting the audience to totally different settings, each more creepy than the last. This production is certainly one of the most technically slick that I have seen for a while, with timing being absolutely crucial in delivering the scares.

With a production like this, the audience can end up being just as important as the other elements. With screams and yelps surrounding you and dread pulsing throughout the auditorium, it is hard not to be totally drawn into the experience.

If you are of a frail disposition, this might be one for you to skip; I can certainly think of a few friends who would have probably run away 10 minutes into the play. However, if you are a horror fan then it is certainly worth the journey out to Hammersmith for an evening of scares.

Reviewed by Stephanie Mansell

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