Review of ‘2:22’: “The haunting, haunted kind”

From the Noel Coward to the Gielgud, and now staying at the very hub of London’s hustle and bustle at the Criterion Theatre, 2:22 continues to spook audiences after two seasons of immortal success. Guillermo Názara jumps into the other side to reveal what’s waiting in the land of the unknown – currently ruled by an A-lit cast including Tom Felton and Mandip Gill.

You don’t need to believe in ghost stories… You’re in one! It may seem inappropriate at first to quote a swashbuckle film, let alone a franchise, to start a review about a play set in modern urban life. But believe me when I say that the coincidences between the two lie beyond the realm of spectral apparitions and, shockingly enough, even fiction. The reasons why, however, in due time. For now, let’s just focus on what’s lying in store for those who dare venture into the Criterion Theatre these days. Yes, you already know that this is a tale about the after life, but don’t be deceived by the genre… or by what you consider it to be.

Tick, tick… SCREAM! The audience’s frantic reaction to the unexpected sets the mood for what’s to come. And it’s not necesarrily horror – in fact, I’d say that’s definitely where not to frame it. Instead, we are presented with a traditional antrophological work that exceeds the usual bounds of plots dealing with the occult. Just like in the cinema industry, you have the plain gore predictable and, unavoidably, boring films where there’s nothing else but recurring shocks, there’s those rare polished gems taking off from banality and exploring deeper themes about human nature. 2:22 is the latter, and its natural and profound text is the undisputable evidence.

Penned by dramaturg and journalist Danny Robbins (who’s previous experience writing fiction clearly sets a pattern of expertise in the spiritual field), the play is actually a rational though emotional exploration of relations and people’s personalities. The fear of what we don’t understand (or instead pretend to do) is the starting point to unravel not only the secrets of our interactions with others, but the personas we may create when doing so. Blessed (or cursed, for lack of a better word) with a lot of wit, the initial comedy progressively transforms into a more serious attention-gripping drama, exuding the same complexity sooner or later we’re bound to find in life itself.

Credit: Johan Persson/

With remarkably good pace (both thanks to its fast-moving dialogue and fitting time jumps), the tension grows exponentially during the whole performance, sparing not a single moment for your interest to go down. As the moment approaches for the fearsome event to occur again, so does the evolution of the characters, opening up to the public and their own selves – coming to terms with their weaknesses and flaws. It’s here where the crudeness and bravery of the piece gets at its peak, dealing with topics that, however fair they were, have been silenced by corrupted political correcteness (the Johnny Depp trial will give all the hints).

Featuring an elite cast, including Mandy Gill (Jenny), Beatriz Romilly (Lauren) and Sam Swainsbury (Ben), the chemistry among them all is exceptionally tangible – giving you the weird though comforting sensation that you’re part of the scene you’re witnessing, not as an eavesdropper, but as one more member of the party. The biggest mention, however, goes to Tom Felton in the role of Sam. Playing a wise (though sometimes condescending) scientist, Felton’s performance is so natural and charismatic that it almost feels like an extension of his own identity. His character, though never unbearable (he happens to be my favourite) could easily fall into the box of obnoxiusness, but Felton’s stage presence and charm keeps him likeable at all time.

Directed by Matthew Dunster, 2:22 is a fine example of what talent and imagination can bring to the table when it comes to a classic story. We all have seen or read plots that deal with a similar topic, even may have been told some taken from acquaintances’ own experiences, yet this work manages to stand out. There’s humour, there’s tragedy, there’s depth, it pulls from the heart’s strings and the author is not afraid to speak his mind. That’s usually called art. I suspected the ending (though I usally do anyway), but that didn’t prevent me to keep thinking about it when I was leaving the venue – even discussing it with people I didn’t even know, as the Easter eggs you will be given will clearly haunt you (excuse the pun) to connect the dots for a day or two. When you can play with your viewers’ minds to that extent, there’s no doubt that you have something there.

4/5 stars.

2:22 plays from Tuesday to Sunday (double feature on weekend days). Tickets are available on the following link.

By Guillermo Názara

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