2:22 – A Ghost Story – Review – Grand Opera House, York (2024)

2:22 – A Ghost Story – Review – Grand Opera House, York (1)

By Roger Crow, April 2024

There’s a table among the many impressive props in 2:22 – A Ghost Story. Four legs, and a solid top, a lot like the drama itself; four primary characters who hold the show up. And on their shoulders rests one of the most jaw-dropping shows you’ll see all year.

Jay McGuiness (from the band The Wanted), George Rainsford (Casualty), Fiona Wade (Emmerdale) and Vera Chok (Hollyoaks) are the latest thesps to carry the stage phenomenon that has taken the West End by storm. And it’s that hype in London which made me wonder if it was worth a look when it finally came to Grand Opera House York.

The answer is a resounding ‘Yes’. Ideally written in 72 point Helvetica with a dozen exclamation marks, but you get the idea.

The production sets its stall out early with a jump scare which set the pulse racing, and two digital clocks. As we’re slaves to time, those time pieces and the name of the show itself dominate the production. What happens at that time and why? Well, the less you know the better, and like The Mousetrap ending, woe betide anyone who gives it away. It’s that sort of a show.

“Clock ticks down”

One of the props is a baby monitor, which is one of the oldest tricks in the book when it comes to thrillers. (I couldn’t help be reminded of one of the worst TV movie titles of all time, Baby Monitor: Sound of Fear). However, as every plot device under the sun has been used over the years, just go with it. That primal fear of an offstage baby crying may bring out the maternal or paternal instinct in most of us, so little wonder we’re sucked in as the over-concerned parents attend to their baby’s every cry.

The drama, or rather comedy drama, takes place in an impressively designed kitchen, living room, hallway, and yard where over-amorous foxes keep screeching and setting off the outdoor light. Full marks to the designers and construction crew for crafting such an impressive set. There’s even a believable ceiling, which completes the illusion. The audience are witnesses to a believable party we’ve not been invited to and, as we’re a nosy lot in York, we love to eavesdrop on the couple with the baby and their two friends who want to get drunk and wind up talking about gentrification. But what is going on upstairs, and what does happen at 2:22? Well, like a slumber party, we’re all invited to stay up with the four protagonists and wait as that clock ticks down.

There’s a breadcrumb trail of clues of course, but I’ll not even mention those because the best way to see this show is knowing as little about the plot as possible.

The characters are a mix of likeable and annoying, or likably annoying, with a subtext about the privileged and the working class, and the houses they live in as well as their respective view of the world. There’s a Four Weddings-style plot which pays off at a crucial time, and a series of jump scares which work brilliantly, not least because they not only punctuate scenes but crash into them.

“Jumping out of their skin”

Performances are all great, not least from Jay McGuiness, who the whole world, apart from me, would tell you was in The Wanted, but as I’ve never seen him perform, I just take him at face value. Yes, he can carry a scene. All of them can in fact, while George Rainsford, Fiona Wade and Vera Chok also do a terrific job of telling a great story.

It’s only after the show that I’m reminded it’s penned by Danny Robins, whose ubiquitous adverts for the TV version of hit podcast Uncanny, about the paranormal, seemed to dominate the BBC last year. On the strength of this alone I’m not surprised, and for fans, the man himself will be on stage at the Grand Opera House on June 18.

Are you a believer in the paranormal or, like a key protagonist, do you have a rational explanation for things going bump in the night? Well, whichever side of the fence you fall on, by the end of this show, there’s no denying the electricity that shot through the audience in those final minutes as all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.

That collective experience of theatregoers jumping out of their skin is absolutely priceless, and after the cast took their well deserved bows, I couldn’t get the grin off my face.

I survived 2:22, and what an unforgettable night it was, not least because the two-hour run time, including interval, is absolutely perfect.

Do yourself a favour and try and catch it before the final show on Saturday May 4. You can even get tickets from £13, and if you miss the York run, the good news is it’s at Hull New Theatre from May 14 or Bradford’s Alhambra from May 28.

2:22 – A Ghost Story – Review – Grand Opera House, York (2024)
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