2:22 A Ghost Story

Sep 28 2023 | By More

★★★☆☆      Spooky

Festival Theatre: Tue 26 – Sat 30 Sept 2023
Review by Hugh Simpson

On tour after an award-winning (and still-current) London run, Danny Robins’s 2:22 A Ghost Story at the Festival Theatre is an entertaining horror story. It largely justifies the confidence displayed in putting the word ‘ghost’ right up there in the title.

The life of couple Jenny and Sam and their baby Phoebe, in their newly renovated house in a gentrified area of London, has been disturbed by unexplained happenings at 2:22 each night. Sam, just returned from a work trip to Sark, is sceptical, but Jen insists they – with Sam’s old university friend Lauren and her new boyfriend Ben – stay up to investigate.

Charlene Boyd and Joe Absolom in 2:22. A Ghost Story. Pic: Johan Persson.

Robins’s script is taut enough and tells the story effectively. It draws more obviously on the tradition of recent horror movies rather than theatre; instead of concentrating on building up a spooky atmosphere, it relies heavily on jump scares. These (courtesy of screaming foxes) do not really arise from the plot or characters and could be seen as somewhat unearned. However, they are done with panache, with Lucy Carter’s lighting and the sound design of Ian Dickinson for Autograph being very impressive.

Without going into any detail, there are, unsurprisingly, twists in the plot, but these are neither startlingly original nor that difficult to predict; much of the fun comes from spotting the clues that are carefully laid beforehand.

interesting ruminations

The dialogue does contain some interesting ruminations on why people choose to believe (or not) in the paranormal, on class and on politics, but it does tend towards the wordy at times, with too much telling and too little showing.

Nathaniel Curtis, Joe Absolom, Charlene Boyd and Louisa Lytton in 2:22 A Ghost Story. Pic: Johan Persson/

The problem with the characters is that beyond their importance to the situation, they have little other to make them sympathetic or compelling. Sam is the scientifically oriented sceptic, Ben is the believer, Jen is the lapsed Catholic, disappointed Lauren is taking refuge in the bottle; otherwise there is little nuance or development, with conflict between them being shown by little other than shouting.

That said, they are all well played. The various London casts have often featured some left-field choices, but here we are largely in the time-honoured touring realm of faces recognisable from TV.

Joe Absolom (EastEnders, Doc Martin), recently seen here in The Shawshank Redemption, has a creditable stab at diamond geezer Ben the plumber. Louisa Lytton (EastEnders) and Nathaniel Curtis (It’s A Sin) give life to Jen and Sam, even if their relationship is neither completely believable nor particularly compelling.

rounded performance

The most rounded performance comes from Charlene Boyd (most recently seen in the Lyceum’s EdFringe revival of The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart) as Lauren, who manages to evoke real sympathy, and suggest an element of jeopardy that is not always present otherwise.

Nathaniel Curtis and Charlene Boyd in 2:22 A Ghost Story. Pic: Johan Persson

The direction – by Matthew Dunster and Isabel Marr – supplies the necessary creeping dread, with the inclusion of a digital clock on the stage creating an air of inevitability.

Anna Fleischle’s set, an apparently traditional evocation of a house lacking its fourth wall, is a little lost in the huge expanse of the Festival Theatre stage. It seems a long way from the audience, and the gaps at the sides are disconcerting; this is another production that would ideally have been staged at the King’s.

The jump scares and Chris Fisher’s impressive if underused illusions aside, this is intriguing rather than terrifying. While it may not be edge-of-the-seat stuff, it is done with enough seriousness to satisfy any fans of the genre.

Running time: 2 hours (including one interval).

Festival Theatre, 13-29 Nicolson St St, EH8 9FT
Tuesday 26 – Saturday 30 September 2023
Evenings at 7.30 pm; Matinees Thurs & Sat 2.30 pm
Tickets and details: Book here.

Glasgow King’s Theatre, 297 Bath St, Glasgow G2 4JN
Tue 21 – Sat 25 Nov 2023
Evenings: 7.30pm; Wed, Sat mats: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.


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