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Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories Ghost Stories scares a new audience in the West End

After a tour to Toronto and Moscow, Ghost Stories returns with a vengeance to the West End taking up residency at London's Arts Theatre. Frightening and funny, this production assaults the senses in a way that you won't have experienced before in a theatre.

The press have been specifically asked not to divulge any major plot points and to "keep the secrets" so as not to spoil the surprise moments of horror. Duly noted, all I can say is that we are still treated to three main ghost stories that are introduced and linked together by a professor of the paranormal Philip Goodman (Paul Kemp). All the stories are the same as the original production but with some tweaking here and there and it is fair to say that the spine tingling moments are just as effective and nail biting.

From entering the building we see immediately that the theatre has been turned into a scene of dilapidation and spookiness with 'no access' tape strewn across the walls. With an eerie soundscape of drips and hums to add to the creepiness, this all contributes to setting a high level of tension. This is a clever and efficient way of building up enormous anticipation reminiscent of the horror film genre. In fact, the success of the production very much relies on the constant increase of pressure with the occasional moments of humour to bring the audience into a false sense of security.

To frighten such a large audience effectively from a traditional proscenium arch space is undoubtedly difficult and requires a perfect sense of timing. Philip Whitchurch's comical night watchman, the protagonist of the first ghost story, is particularly good at leading the audience through a maze of tension and relief. All-round good performances aside, this is a production that relies heavily on technical prowess. Clever lighting design by James Farncombe and inventive set design by Jon Bausor contribute just as much to providing the moments of fear and alarm.

If you like scary movies and if you like to generally be made to jump and fret then this is the show for you. Do be warned though, you may have some sleepless nights after Ghost Stories

CURRENT PRODUCTION NOTES Ghost Stories by Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson
Starring: Dino Fetscher, Paul Kemp, Paul Kendrick, Chris Levens, Gary Shelford, Mark Starr, Philip Whitchurch
Design by Jon Bausor
Lighting: James Farncombe
Sound: Nick Manning
Special Effects: Scott Penrose
Running time: 80 minutes with no interval
Box Office: 020 7836 8463
Booking to 24th May 2014
Reviewed by Tim Newns based on 27th February 2014 production at the Arts Theatre, Great Newport Street, London WC2H 7JB

The original reviewby Lizzie Loveridge

I've always loved Hitchcock. — Tony Matthews
Ghost Stories
David Cardy as Tony (Helen Maybanks)
Sean Holmes, the Artistic Director of the Lyric Hammersmith is always mindful of attracting a new audience so during his tenure at the West London theatre his choice of programme will have in it something that is exciting and experimental. The Woman in Black has long attracted a devoted West End following as it goes into its "nth" year, second only in longest running London plays to Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap.

Ghost Stories taps into the fascination that we have with the paranormal, why we actually pay for the experience of being scared. The introduction to Ghiost Stories from a professor, Philip Goodman (Andy Nyman) first examines the audience's own experience of, and belief in, ghosts. The professor then relates to us the accounts of three of his respondents to a survey and their close encounters with ghosts are played onstage. The theatre have specifically asked critics not to reveal much of the plot and the surprise elements of the show, with which I concur because to spoil someone else's theatrical experience is not acceptable.

However I think I may describe the three scenarios, each spine tingling but leaving out the detail which makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Alone at night with only a walkie talkie for contact in the small hours of the morning is night watchman Tony (David Cardy) whose past may trouble him. I used to babysit for strangers and I found it very creepy being alone at night in someone else's house with the unaccustomed, which seems so much louder at night, a clock ticking or a door creaking. The most terrifying for me is the situation student Simon Rifkind (Ryan Gage) finds himself in. Not having passed his driving test, but having lied about it to his parents, driving their car he breaks down late at night in the middle of the countryside where every tree branch takes on a sinister shape. Finally there is a scene which all parents will find terrifying, set in the nursery of estate agent Mike Priddle's (Nicholas Burns) large London house.

A three way directional credit goes to the show's devisers, Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, with Sean Holmes collaborating. Scott Penrose known as a magician is responsible for the special effects and designer Jon Bausor has created the spooky sets.

That dear readers is as much as I can reveal but do not see this show alone so at least you have someone to hang onto and to tell you what happened when you shut your eyes.

Written by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman
Directed by Jeremy Dyson, Sean Holmes and andy Nyman

With: Nicholas Burns, David Cardy, Ryan Gage and Andy Nyman
Design: Jon Bausor
Special Effects: Scott Penrose
Lighting: James Farncombe
Sound: Nick Manning
Fight and Movement: Lewis Peploe
Running time: One hours 20 minutes with no interval
Box Office: 0871 2211 729
Booking to 3rd April 2010
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 5th February 2010 performances at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, King Street, London W6 0QL (Tube:Hammersmith)
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