Little we knew what we were in for as we stepped into the Noël Coward Theatre in West End’s Theatreland last night. After entering the auditorium, the first thing you’ll encounter is a beautifully designed set that’s conceived to portray a kitchen-dining space to the finest detail. This is where the whole of 2:22 A Ghost Story takes place – and it is so effective that no set changes are necessary. The other thing you’ll notice is a big red digital clock on one of the walls, and as the play starts, it’ll take you on a journey to the time that’s become the name of the show.
Jenny (Lily Allen) is a new mum who has recently moved to the house her husband Sam (Hadley Fraser) and her have just bought. As they carry on with the renovations, she becomes convinced that the property is haunted as she hears footsteps and weeping in her baby daughter’s room for several nights at exactly the same time: 2:22 am.
The pair throw a dinner party inviting Sam’s university friend Lauren (Julia Chan) and the new man she’s settled for, Ben (Jake Wood). The four of them get enthralled in various debates about belief and rationalism, faith and imagination, and there’s a point where Jenny asks them to wait until 2:22 am so they can be witnesses of the ghost that she claims is haunting the family.
This is Lily Allen’s debut in the West End and after seeing her performance we can assure you you wouldn’t believe it. She becomes this magnetic presence on stage taking the role of the frantic and afraid Jen who lives in constant paranoia and delivers a performance that is both strong and assured. She runs around the stage undertaking all of the chores that director Matthew Dunster gives her to portray the image of a woman that needs to be continuously active to avoid her daunting thoughts – whether that’s tidying the room, serving dinner, clearing stuff away and checking on her baby daughter.
Her constant movement contrasts with her moments of stillness. That’s when the fear best finds its way in. Hadley Fraser becomes the opposite to Allen in all debates, portraying a know-it-all astronomer that is sure there are rational explanations to all superstitions and beliefs. His acting is so realistic that it’s easy to forget he’s acting.
Danny Robins’ script has a great combination of tension and humour. The audience laughed just as much as they jumped, which is a great recipe for an enjoyable ghost story. There are genuine chilling moments, build-up of tension throughout and clever humour moments where you get to relax a bit… but not for too long as you see the daring red clock growing closer and closer to 2:22 am.
Get your tickets for 2:22 A Ghost Story here.