Review: 2:22 A Ghost Story, The Criterion Theatre ★★★★☆

by Chris Dobson


In its latest iteration at the Criterion Theatre, Danny Robins’s play 2:22 – A Ghost Story sees Felix Scott (a regular on radio soap The Archers) as cynical astronomer Sam, whilst Laura Whitmore (best known for presenting Love Island) plays Sam’s wife Jenny, who becomes convinced that their new house is haunted. They have a new-born child and their relationship is gradually tearing at the seams, a trend exacerbated by the visit of Sam’s Australian friend Lauren (played by Tamsin Carroll) and her boyfriend Ben (Matt Willis, of Busted fame). Tensions bubble up between self-assured Sam – who channels radio presenter James O’Brien – and a Danny Dyer-esque Ben. Ben thinks Sam is a snob, whilst Sam sees Ben as an idiot. Matt Willis nails Ben’s deadpan humour, which is juxtaposed with the play’s more unnatural elements.

As the night wears on and the clock ticks down to 2:22AM, two opposing worldviews come into conflict: The level-headed scientific reasoning of Sam, and the spirituality of characters like Jenny and Ben, who think that not everything can be explained away by science. Tamsin Carroll is perhaps the star of the show; she portrays Lauren with warmth, humour and an empowering sense of female liberation, but this is tinged with a barely perceptible melancholy. Laura Whitmore, meanwhile, convincingly conveys Jenny’s love for Sam, but also her resentment at him for manipulating her into being just the kind of wife he wants. At times, however, when it comes to Jenny’s concern for baby Phoebe, Whitmore overacts, losing comprehension in a quick spool of words.

Director Matthew Dunster, along with set designer Anna Fleischle, conveys the claustrophobia felt by the four central characters, who for most of the play are stuck in one room, with only each other – and plenty of alcohol – for company. Lighting designer Lucy Carter and sound designer Ian Dickson also deserve credit for crafting an atmospheric production that manages to be both grounded in realism and, often, thrillingly spooky. Even if the plot stretches credulity at times, it’s all worth it for the shock we get at the end.

2:22 A Ghost Story is at The Criterion Theatre until 8 January.

Chris Dobson is a freelance journalist from the North of England. He now lives in North London and is passionate about theatre, film and literature.

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