Theatre Review: 2:22 A GHOST STORY – The Lowry, Salford

The cast of 2:22. A GHOST STORY. Photo Credit: Johan Persson

Exploring themes of love, loss, and truth, 2:22 A GHOST STORY is an engaging and atmospheric play featuring strong performances and a skillfully crafted set that evokes tension and suspense.

4 out of 5 stars

A tale of the supernatural has to be regarded closely and treated with care. Too much fear and the work becomes a caricature; too little, and there is no bite. In 2:22 A GHOST STORY, writer Danny Robbins walks this fine line with an engaging, nuanced and atmospheric tale. The work has touches of M R James with the unspoken interactions, and the premise is one of love, loss and the distortion of truth. Truths are told, and long-simmering resentments come to the surface.

The cast of 2:22. A GHOST STORY. Photo Credit: Johan Persson

Set in the modern day, the play sees Jenny (Fiona Wade) and Sam (George Rainsford) holding a dinner party in their partially renovated home. Their newborn, Phoebe, sleeps upstairs as Lauren (Vera Chok) and Ben (Jay McGuiness) join them for an evening of drink, recriminations, and long-hidden slights.

The cast is a compact and solid group that plays off each other well with plenty of cutting remarks and secrets, but Jay McGuiness, in particular, is a joy to watch with a naturalistic style that slips between the other characters. There is shouting, awkward silence, and frustration as Jenny and Sam tackle the friction that exists within their marriage, while Lauren and Ben mostly watch from the sidelines. There is no doubt that Jenny is particularly struggling to cope with her experiences, and the refusal of her husband to take her seriously shows how a relationship disintegrates. The second act, in particular, focuses on the emotional aspects of the four characters, their pasts and their willingness to confront the truth, or the truth as they see it. There are revelations, twists and clues as to who they really are and how they view each other.

The cast of 2:22. A GHOST STORY. Photo Credit: Johan Persson

The set by Anna Fleischle is simple but effective. The unfinished building work seeps through the corners, Lucy Carter’s lighting design creates shockwaves, and Ian Dickinson’s sound direction helps create a brooding backdrop for the increasingly fraught interactions. The tension created through the skilful use of the visual causes the audience to jump on multiple occasions.

2:22 A GHOST STORY is a strong premise of an unsettling take on the supernatural, which guides the audience through various emotions. Although there are dips in the tempo of the play in the first act, it is overall a well-thought-out work designed to play on the fears of the individual. It asks the question of whether ghosts exist, and this interplay of fear and doubt, along with the more light-hearted exchanges, creates a feeling of apprehension and agitation throughout the play. I doubt an audience has jumped as much for a long time.

2:22 A GHOST STORY runs at The Lowry, Salford, until 15 June 2024.