Written by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman
Performance: February 28th, New Theatre, Cardiff
One word forced its way to the front of my mind as the lights rose in the New Theatre on 28th February, 2020.
I felt almost breathless, as if I’d just been on an intense roller coaster that left me unsure of my ability to walk. Instantly, I knew what I’d witnessed that night would remain with me.
For those unfamiliar, Ghost Stories is a play. Having started in 2010, Ghost Stories has been to various countries around the world, and was even made into a film in 2017. This year marks its first UK tour, which feels long overdue. I’m aware most of our readers are Stateside, so let me just say this: if you can hold out, keep an eye out for this absolute gem of British Horror, and see it on stage before you watch the film. And if it does happen to come anywhere near you, go see it. You will not be disappointed.
The best way to go into this is knowing almost nothing about it, so I’m not going to go into too many details here. But to give you some idea, I’ll first explain what awaited us when we actually arrived at the theatre.
It’s a theatre I’ve been to many times, for many performances. New Theatre is a wonderful place, with a touch of an old school feel to it, but never before have I seen it so decked out. My only disappointment was that there was no merchandise for me to get my hands on, and I would have loved to have purchased something apart from the programme.
Inside the theatre, cobwebs were draped over busts and paintings, and select doors had yellow caution tape across. Immediately, the atmosphere was set up, and multiple staff members reminded us and others that once the doors were closed, there was no entry. Meaning for an hour and a half, if you left the theatre, you would not be allowed back in.
Even in the foyer, there were nervous giggles, and these increased as people entered and sat down, some clutching multiple alcoholic drinks, clearly feeling the need to ensure they did not run out.
And once the light dimmed, the tension increased, the audience already feeling the weight of what we were about to witness. I got the impression none of us really knew what to expect, and there were nervous looks towards the side doors, people clearly judging whether or not someone would jump out from there, or stagger down the aisle, or use other tricks to really try and scare us.
Everything about this performance was fantastic.
Sound effects, visuals, multimedia were all used to really emphasise the fact that maybe, just maybe, we had made a wrong decision, and the possibility of seeing something truly scary increased.
There are images from the performance which remain with me, even days after. Moments which pop into my mind and make me shudder, visual touches I don’t think I’ll ever quite shake off. There is little which scares me in Horror – I can read and watch almost anything. The only other things that have come close to having the same effect on me as Ghost Stories are perhaps the first visit to The London Bridge Experience, and Pasaje del Terror in Blackpool. But even they did not leave me feeling as unsettled as Ghost Stories. It is the kind of fear that can only be cultivated with great care and attention to everything involved in a theatrical experience.
It’s something I highly recommend, if you ever get the chance, and if I am ever able to, I will definitely be seeing it again. Maybe I won’t jump so much next time. Though with something like Ghost Stories, it would be extremely hard not to feel the tension and fear weaved throughout.
Ghost Stories is currently touring the UK until May 2020. You can find out more at www.ghoststorieslive.co.uk
Writers: @andynyman & @dysonjeremy
Review by Elle Turpitt