The London scene continues to scream in fear and delight thanks to this eerie tale about the afterlife, now playing on its last weeks at the Criterion Theatre before transferring to its next venue. Guillermo Názara reviews the new cast of the original West End production (soon to fly to the States too), to let us know if its curse continues to bless the stage.
“I’m coming to London. Let’s go see a show!”. Living in the worldwide capital of the theatre industry (deal with it, New Yorkers – we still love you, though) can be exhilirating in many levels, but it can also turn into a nightmarish headache when a visiting friend asks you THE question: “Which production do you recommend?”. Believe it or not, my latent Alzheimer always pops up every time I face such a hard query (allow me to be dramatic, this is a theatre magazine!!): “what’s that one play or musical you can’t miss by any means?”. It’s really a tough call. They should have for that matter read my 10-shows you can’t miss post then… Too cheeky?
Chances of making the right choice can be increased, however, if that lovely pal helps by narrowing down what they like – usually these bastards put all responsibility on you… But having being told a ghost tale would be a big appeal to him, the task just seemed to get easier all of a sudden – except for the fact that this is England, and stories starring paranormal phenomena dwell even in the most skeptical of places. Anyway, the decision had to be made, and having both of us already seen Phantom of the Opera (after 35 years treading the boards, we’d better), 2:22 was a strong option – though tricky.
It’s not the first time I come to scrutinize this play, and despite my previous article being quite approving of it (sorry to disappoint you if you expected bile), it’s not lesks true that a piece you may love can quickly transform into an embarrassment if delivered by the wrong hands. Even with a same director and identical production (it’s the original, after all), a completely changed cast can change your opinion not only about the characters (I’ll say in advance that the take by this new troupe was quite different) but also the plot and, all in all, the show as a whole. And just like that, a play close to brilliant can be plummeted into untalented obscurity.
With very big shoes to fill, Felix Scott and Laura Whitmore have been passed the torch to play the seemingly happy (but soon to wreck and crack) couple formed by Sam and Amy. The former, a scientific cynical; the latter a shaky believer, their love tandem gets at stake over an ongoing argument many of us would not even give it a second thought: are ghosts real? Truth is that if you’re dealing with some unexpected appearances, things can get a bit more serious. But the premise of the play is already out there and what interests us here is something more precise: are they like their predecessors? No.
They’re better (now anyone involved in this production can say “phew!”). Felix Scott is in fact the biggest contributor to this improvement, for despite Tom Felton’s outstanding stage presence, Scott’s natural magnestism manages to make his character not only more sympathetic, but also attractive and, in some way, commanding – he’s actually a scene stealer even though he’s one of the leads. While Whitmore also gives a satisfactory rendition, it’s however Matt Willis (playing the part of the duo’s friend (to-be) Ben) who gets the second highest praise, playing to almost the same high standards of his male counterpart. Last, Tamsin Carroll (probably the most familiar face to West End musicals junkies) develops a succesful interpretation as the play carries on, also able to enhance the ugliest traits of the alcoholic abuser Lauren.
With deep observations not only about relationships but even more trascendent topics as the meaning of life and the validity of rhetoric and scientific explanation, 2:22 is not just mere entertainment – it can fairly be considered some piece of art. Featuring a nice bunch of scares despite the show being more of a thriller than a horror story (I confess I jumped on my seat a couple of times even though I knew what was coming… partially), the final product is a polished and very well crafted opportunity to enjoy live entertainment at its best. Likely to haunt you for the next few days, as you will probably find yourself connecting all the hints and loose ends to its surprising ending, the experience, however, can be summarized rather simply: damned if you go, damned if you don’t.
All images credit to Helen Murray.
Read our first review of 2:22 here!
2:22 A Ghost Story currently plays at London’s Criterion Theatre until 8 January 2023 before transferring to the Lyric Theatre on 21 same month. Tickets are available on the following link.
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