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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

Ghost Stories (Athenaeum Theatre) - 80 minutes with no interval

An engaging professor of parapsychology talks us through the history of ghost stories – how they came to be and how they have evolved over time.

Phillip Goodman’s (Steve Rodgers) dissertation comes complete with photographic and video “evidence”.

Photos by Charles Alexander

Among the most compelling is a photo of four people taken in Scotland in 1972, which, upon closer inspection, reveals more than at first meets the eye.

The scientist asks the audience how many believe in ghosts and how many have experienced the paranormal.

A surprisingly large number raise their hands.

I find myself in a room of believers.

Goodman reveals that in 20 years of listening to stories about the unexplained three stand out.

He proceeds to introduce the first concerning night watchman Tony Matthews’ (Jay Laga’aia).

The professor’s words morph into a re-enactment.

On his last night after seven years in the job, Matthews’ ghostly experience happened at 3:45am.

Next up, Goodman turns to the tortured tale of young, unlicensed driver Simon Rifkind (Darcy Brown).

He is alone in his parents’ vehicle in the dead of night, driving home after attending a party an hour away.

Finally, the focus is on a successful but arrogant and annoying investment specialist, Mike Priddle (Nick Simpson-Deeks).

He relays his chilling experience with a malevolent force in a baby’s nursery.

But wait … there’s more by way of a surprise/shock ending to Ghost Stories, when everything we’ve heard and seen is upended.

It is a clever, creative and compelling piece of theatricality that caps off an engaging 80 minutes of storytelling and scares.

Written by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, it is directed by that duo and Sean Holmes.

It first played in the UK in 2010.

The actors in this Australian production have done a great job.

I single out Rodgers as the narrator and Matthews as the night watchman for special mention.

Both are natural and personable.

Much about the sets, props, lighting and sound impresses.

It amounts to an ever-changing tapestry of mood and movement, and goes to show that a production such as this relies heavily on backstage artistry.

Technically this is quite a feat to put together and pull off.

While I can’t point to blood curdling screams, there were certainly shrieks from among the more sensitive assembled.

Ghost Stories has fun playing with our minds, crafting a flavour of apprehension and fear.

It is playing at the Athenaeum Theatre until 5th November, 2022.


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