Reviewed by Kathryn Harrison
Last night, I went to see ‘Ghost Stories’ at The Lowry in Salford Quays, Manchester. Now, this is going to be trickier to write than your average review as the production team are keen there be no spoilers. The show’s programme even comes minus a synopsis. What I can tell you, is that it is what it says on the tin – ‘Ghost Stories’. However, it isn’t as simple and straightforward as that; the show entices you to enter a nightmarish world, full of thrilling TWISTS and turns. And that, is much as you’re getting.
I was drawn to see the show by the warning that comes with it. ‘WARNING: Please be advised that ‘Ghost Stories’ contains moments of extreme shock and tension. We strongly advise those of a nervous disposition to think very seriously before attending.’ The show also has an age recommendation of 15+.
‘Ghost Stories’ invites you to ‘play a game with fear.’ Such a premise attracts people who enjoy being scared. And there’s plenty of them. Thrillseekers like myself enjoy “controlled” fear and suspense, because despite being scared, we know we’re safe. For me, the show didn’t have the sensational scare factor I’d both anticipated and expected having read the publicity material. I didn’t experience that rush of adrenaline that helps create a sense of enjoyment when being ‘safely scared.’ Admittedly, I did ‘jump’ several times throughout the show, but it failed to get my heart racing.
The show proposes a challenge to potential viewers, ‘Are you brave enough to book?’ This will appeal to and attract those who get a satisfying thrill from seeing just how much fear they can tolerate, hopefully resulting in a sense of pride. Throughout the theatre, there was plenty of nervous laughter, great big gasps and even one or two screams, making it clear there were plenty of people perched more on the edge of their seat than I was. I’d read that ‘my deepest fears and disturbing thoughts would be imagined live on stage.’ No nightmares here I’m afraid. I slept perfectly well. However, feel free to ask me again tomorrow when I’ve spent the night home alone. I’m wondering whether the creaks, bangs and niggly noises of the night will be amplified with the other half away with work and ‘Ghost Stories’ still fresh in my mind.
This show is perfect for people who are curious about the ‘dark side’, those who debate the existence of phantoms, poltergeists and other paranormal occurrences. The fear of the unknown is one of the most natural and instinctive fears and this is exactly what the show plays on.
Years ago, a common piece of dating advice was to take your date to a scary movie. Said tip was based on the idea that the frightened party would ‘cuddle up’ for protection. Despite my own ‘date’, (or should I say husband), not getting much more than a squeeze on the knee, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend ‘Ghost Stories’ as perfect date night fodder.
‘Ghost Stories’ is currently on its first ever UK Tour, direct from a sell-out West End run. What I didn’t realise until half-way through, is that I’d actually seen it before, when it premiered in Liverpool 10 years ago! I can’t explain why the show hasn’t remained on my radar. Realising I was already a part of this scary secret show gave me the biggest shock of the night. Writers Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson have created a production that has become a worldwide cult phenomenon. I’m just catching up. I do know that at both sittings of the show, despite my hazy recollection of the first, I had fun if not so frightening as ‘feared’, enjoyable evenings.
‘Ghost Stories’ has a cast of four who all do a stellar job of conveying the tale, however the focus isn’t so much on their acting skills as on the set and where the next scare is going to come from. What’s lurking in the dark? Why are those lights flashing? What’s that noise? I’d also say that the show may offer a slightly different experience depending on where you’re sat. I’d go upfront. The show lasts for 1 hour 40 mins without an interval; a successful format for holding tension and your attention.
The production describes itself as ‘a fully sensory and electrifying encounter, Ghost Stories is the ultimate twisted love-letter to horror’. I expected more shivers up the spine than it dealt out. I think it’s more psychological thriller than full-on horror, but of course, fear is a personal thing. Don’t be afraid to go and see this show, the story is worth it in itself, scares or no scares.
Tickets cost from £18.50 (booking fees may apply).
Ghost Stories is at The Lowry in Manchester from 18-22 February 2020, for more information or to book tickets visit www.thelowry.com or call the box office on 0843 208 6000.
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, Manchester, M50 3AZ | 0843 208 6000