Review | 2:22 A Ghost Story at Chichester Festival Theatre: "I did not see the twists coming"

You’re painting a doorframe in the early hours, watching the clock tick down with a knot in your stomach.
Fiona Wade (Jenny), Jay McGuiness (Ben), Vera Chok (Lauren) in 2.22 - A Ghost Sory. Photo by Johan PerssonFiona Wade (Jenny), Jay McGuiness (Ben), Vera Chok (Lauren) in 2.22 - A Ghost Sory. Photo by Johan Persson
Fiona Wade (Jenny), Jay McGuiness (Ben), Vera Chok (Lauren) in 2.22 - A Ghost Sory. Photo by Johan Persson

Upstairs, your baby daughter is in their cot. You begin to hear her cry through the monitor.

With a growing sense of dread, you climb the stairs, open the door to her room – and breathe a sigh of relief that this time, you sense she’s alone.

The clock strikes 2:22.

And that’s when you hear the footsteps again.

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So the play begins, with new mum Jenny worried her new house is haunted – and trying to convince her skeptical husband Sam that ghosts do exist.

Initially, the couple keep up appearances when Sam’s uni friend Lauren and her builder boyfriend Ben come over for dinner. But as the strange phenomena continue, the quartet come to an agreement: to stay up until 2:22 and find out for themselves what is happening.

A word-of-mouth success which attracted a clutch of Olivier nominations, I was concerned that 2:22 might not reach the hype. And while I enjoyed it, I don’t think it has snatched the crown from The Woman in Black as theatre’s scariest show.

If the latter is good ol’ fashioned, blood-curdling entertainment, the former is more intellectual: a rumination about faith and the human psyche with some frights thrown in.

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Now don’t get me wrong, I nearly spilled tea down myself on several occasions as the jump scares are plentiful. But these aren’t woven into the plot in the way that The Woman in Black’s are, instead breaking up the growing tension as 2:22 looms and all the loose threads begin to weave together.

In terms of the acting, it appeared the producers had gone for stunt casting with The Wanted alum and Strictly star Jay McGuiness playing Ben. But in fact I found him to be the most charismatic of the bunch, followed by Fiona Wade as the increasingly frantic Jenny.

As the lights came up, there were projections asking people not to share spoilers. So with respect, I’ll just say that I did not see the twists coming – testament to Danny Robin’s meticulously plotted script.I just wish there were less philosophical debates and psychological dissections and more flaming teddies.

Until Saturday, February 10.