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2:22 – A Ghost Story review: Thoroughly entertaining night of psychological dread and heart-stopping shocks

Theatre: Shona McGarty, Jay McGuiness, Colin O’Donoghue and Laura Whitmore bat their lines with jittery appeal

Laura Whitmore and Colin O’Donoghue in 2:22 – A Ghost Story by Danny Robins, at the 3Olympia Theatre, Dublin. Photograph: Helen Murray

2:22 – A Ghost Story

3Olympia, Dublin
★★★☆☆

It may surprise you to learn that London’s West End stretches back to the 17th century: its oldest incubator, the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane, was built in 1663 after the dissolution of the Puritan regime, which had banned all public theatre.

From that moment of liberation until the present day, the West End theatrical style has obeyed only one injunction: to entertain the public. Uninterested in modernist angst or political didacticism, the West End is a theatrical machine that spawns dozens of plays every year, devoted to thrilling and delighting its audiences in equal measure.

From out of this tradition comes the Olympia’s most recent offering, 2:22 – A Ghost Story, a widely acclaimed and well-oiled horror hit. Since its inception in 2021 at the Noël Coward Theatre, the production has passed through the hands of several notable showbiz luminaries, including Lily Allen, Cheryl Tweedy, Tom Felton (Malfoy from the Harry Potter series) and James Buckley (of Inbetweeners fame).

Now we’re able to enjoy it on the Dublin stage with a new cast including Shona McGarty, Jay McGuiness, Colin O’Donoghue, and Laura Whitmore.

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2:22 is a pacy, pulse-quickening supernatural drama that pairs an atmosphere of slow psychological dread with electrifying moments of pure fright. The plot revolves around a single night in a house in London. Ben and Jenny, parents to a restive newborn, host their old friend Lauren and her new boyfriend Sam, for a long evening of laughter, drinks, simmering class-based tension, and paranormal terror.

Shona McGarty, Jay McGuiness, Colin O’Donoghue, and Laura Whitmore in 2:22 – A Ghost Story. Photograph: Helen Murray

Typical of the gothic horror genre, the play is carried on the back of the emotionally fraught relationships of our four main protagonists, each of whom is caught in a web of sorrow and self-deceit that is carefully revealed over the course of the drama.

The engine for the plot stems from Jenny’s conviction that her home, which she and Ben only recently acquired, is haunted. Her suspicions, though far-fetched, feel authentic to her guests, especially the guileless and approachable Sam, played with cheeky charm by McGuiness. Jenny’s scientifically-minded husband, however, is freshly returned from an overlong research trip in the Channel Islands where he was writing a book about astronomy, and is coldly dismissive of her fears.

Laura Whitmore in 2:22 – A Ghost Story. Photograph: Helen Murray

Ignited by the powder keg of Ben and Jenny’s growing antipathy, the evening transforms from a casual social gathering into a kind of impromptu court case, fuelled by ever greater quantities of alcohol, with each spouse trying to prosecute their argument in the face of heavy resistance: Ben seeks to cast the debate in terms of science versus superstition, while Jenny frames it as acceptance versus closed-mindedness.

The drama efficiently delivers a series of heart-stopping shocks that engage and entertain the audience, and the characters, albeit painted with a broad brush, are believable and sympathetic – a credit not only to playwright Danny Robin’s dialogue, but also to the four-person cast who bat their lines back and forth with jittery appeal, grounding us in the reality of their tense London abode.

Thoroughly entertaining.

2:22 – A Ghost Story is at 3Olympia Theatre, Dublin, until Sunday, August 11th