2:22 - A Ghost Story at Her Majesty's Theatre - 120 minutes, including a 20-minute interval
A blood curdling scream at 2:22am sets the scene for a ghost story with a twist.
Eleven months ago Jenny (Gemma Ward) gave birth to daughter, Phoebe.
She and her astronomer husband Sam (Remy Hii) have also moved into a large, old home, which they bought from an Italian widow.
They are in the throes of painting the place after renovating it (opening it up).
Photo by Eugene Hyland
Sam has just returned home after spending four nights in Warrumbungle National Park, near Coonabarabran in NSW.
Australia’s first dark sky park, it is the perfect spot for stargazing.
Paying a visit for the first time since Jenny welcomed Phoebe into the world is Sam’s old friend Lauren (Ruby Rose) and her boyfriend Ben (Daniel MacPherson).
Lauren, who works in mental health, doesn’t have a good track record with men.
Ben is a tradie who renovated Lauren’s kitchen and never left.
It is clear there is tension in the air.
Sam literally went off and left Jenny to mind the baby, but didn’t reach out to her during his time away. He claims it was because he lost his mobile phone.
A man of science, Sam is also heavily opinionated and takes a “my way or the highway” approach to conversation, which he inevitably dominates.
That puts him offside with Ben, who Sam doesn’t think is good enough for Lauren.
Things are about to get a whole lot more awkward, after Jenny reveals strange and disturbing events have occurred over successive nights in Phoebe’s room.
She swears she has heard footsteps, a male voice and crying … always at 2:22am.
Sam maintains there must be a logical explanation and the pair clash. Lauren and Ben are far more open to the idea of a ghostly apparition. Ben’s mother used to conduct seances.
With foxes howling outside, Jenny implores Lauren and Ben to stay around until the wee small hours. She wants them to witness goings on for themselves and prove she isn’t making things up.
Writer Danny Robins has been fascinated by ghosts since he was a child.
Spirits remained an abstract notion for him until a good friend told him she had seen one.
He found her account simultaneously impossible and totally convincing … and, so, the idea for the play was born.
He then spent much of the past few years interviewing people who are convinced they have seen ghosts.
While he believes many of the experiences can be explained, there is also a healthy minority that defy easy answers. They are the ones that set Robins’ pulse racing.
Robins has crafted a clever contemporary script that capitalises on conflict and in trying to explain the unexplainable.
Sam is an entitled, arrogant know it all, well realised by Remy Hii who generates unlikability.
Jenny finds herself subjugated by Sam, the essence of who she was fast disappearing. Gemma Ward does a fine job showcasing her desperation and struggle.
From working class stock, Ben can grate, but is nothing if not open minded. Daniel MacPherson brings light and shade to his representation.
Although well educated, Lauren has her own peccadilloes and vulnerability, which become evident as the play unfolds. Ruby Rose is accomplished at bringing these to the fore.
2:22 – A Ghost Story benefits from its strong sound and lighting design. Ian Dickinson for Autograph and Lucy Carter, respectively, are responsible.
Anna Fleischle’s busy set design – a downstairs living area and kitchen, with access to the back yard, including a shed – is well realised and evocative.
Director Matthew Dunster makes the most of troubling sounds and things that go bump in the night.
Two hours, including a 20-minute interval, 2:22 – A Ghost Story has been cleverly conceived and is well executed.
Dramatic and, at times, humorous, the production grabs you from the get-go, piques interest and holds you tightly throughout.
Having already played in London and Los Angeles, Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne marks its Australian premiere. It is on until 20th August, 2023.