Ghost Stories: The Show
The classic image of a theatrical production is usally of a grand ornate auditorium, meaningful speeches, worthy acting and/or a chorus line of singers and dancers. This image is shattered as soon as you arrive at the Arts Theatre to experience the return of Ghost Stories:The Show to London's West End. In this context, theatre means nerve shredding suspense, a setting that looks like a crime scene, real genuine jump out loud moments and something that is more akin to a horror movie than a piece of theatrical drama.
The show launches itself at the audience from the outset – shocking everyone with a simple light and sound effect, and once the show has started it never lets up until its over (there is no interval - the show runs a straight 80 minutes from beginning to end)
The stories presented to us are simple enough but are layered with a number of subtle references and clues which surprise on first visit but actually stand up to repeat viewing. In fact it is from seeing it again that you realise quite how cleverly plotted the show is and how it manages to throw everyone completely off track as to how it will genuinely end. Despite the thousands who have seen the show, the true nature of the experience and the twists within have mainly remained a secret and we would urge anyone going to see it to go in blind for the first time!
There's a new cast for this incarnation of the show and this time - actor, comedian and magician Andy Nyman has decided to stay behind the scenes instead of playing the main protagonist and his replacement is a worthy successor, both believable and sympathetic. Each of the stories are effectively one man shows and the cast do a great job of holding the audience's attention while the story and effects unravel around them.
The show is really all about the effects and the scares and these come together in a masterpiece of design and execution. Strange voices emanate from around the audience, scents enhance the experience and whenever there is a large reveal (or a scare), the lighting switches off in enough time so that the brain has difficulty registering what it has just seen. It's a fine line between leaving guests wanting more and ruining the element by showing too much.
The key thing about the show compared to a horror movie is that the audience have a fixed view of the action. There are no quick edits, close ups or jump cuts to create the scares. The directors do try to attract your attention to where it is required but you will still spend times scanning the darkness across the whole stage, looking to see what could happen next. The move to the new smaller theater has also worked in the production's favour. Despite the large stage, the atmosphere remains claustrophobic, intimate and real - the audience somehow feel part of the action.
All in, Ghost Stories is a masterpiece of scare filled drama. It has enough shocks to please the thrill seekers while creating an unbearable feeling of tension and dread throughout. There are big plans for the show going forward - including a potential movie, but we would highly recommend seeing it in it's true home - in a theatre filled with other scared people. Only then. only then can you say you have experienced the raw visceral cleverness that is Ghost Stories
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