Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House, July 10
“Are you brave enough to book?” asks the Sydney Opera House website, warning that Ghost Stories “contains moments of extreme shock and tension. We strongly advise those of a nervous disposition and pregnant women carefully consider their decision to attend.”
In an interview, one of the cast said that he was prepared for people to “freak out” or even leave theatre, adding: “There is nothing in the theatre they can compare this to and I think a lot of people will be uncontrollably scared.”
Well, I’m a complete wuss when it comes to horror films but I didn’t find the play particularly scary at all.
Written by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, the West End hit is presented here by Prince Moo Productions and directed by Peter J. Snee with an Australian cast.
It begins with an illustrated lecture by Philip Goodman (Lynden Jones), a genial professor of parapsychology. As he describes three supernatural cases, which he tries to explain logically as emanations from a guilty mind, they are enacted on stage.
Using familiar tropes from the horror genre, there’s a nightwatchman (John Gregg) at a deserted warehouse, a young man (Aleks Mikic) driving home late at night on an isolated country road, and a man (Ben Wood) whose pregnant wife won’t go into the nursery. Most of it takes place in darkness illuminated with flashes from torches, car headlights and a nightlight.
The soundscape is certainly eerie. Whistling wind and dripping sounds give the feeling of a haunted house as you enter the theatre and as the night unfolds creaks, rumblings and sudden loud crashes and roars ramp up the tension. But that’s about it for the fear factor. The plot climaxes are a letdown and several special effects are comical, even naff.
Glimpsing an actor through the front scrim heading off stage carrying a supposedly terrifying creature punctures the illusion still further.
Still, there are plenty of laughs and a few surprises, and it’s well performed with a particularly enjoyable performance from Jones as the Professor. Just don’t expect to be terrified out of your wits.
Ghost Stories plays at the Drama Theatre until August 15. A version of this review ran in the Sunday Telegraph on July 12