STAGE: Ghost Stories – Grand Opera House, York

Almost ten years ago, Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson launched Ghost Stories on the world and since, it has gone from strength to strength with global tours getting rave reviews, and an award-winning film with Martin Freeman. This week, Ghost Stories is in York at the Grand Opera House and I urge you to go and be scared.

Writing a review without revealing any of the stories or plot isn’t easy. When booking tickets for the show through the website, you had to tick a box ahead of the show to say you’d read the disclaimer that came with Ghost Stories. Those of a nervous disposition shouldn’t attend the show; me being me, I thought this was excessive, how scary can theatre really be?

I’ve been to see the Woman in Black, and similar reviews are written, similar disclaimers are in place, but when seeing that at the Theatre Royal last year, I was disappointed, largely due to a poor audience and a room far too big for horror – but the facts were, it wasn’t scary; so I came into Ghost Stories thinking it’d be a good piece of theatre, but the rest is all over the top. How wrong I was.

For 80 minutes, I was on the edge of my seat, genuinely scared for what was coming next. The Ghost Stories, three in total, were well written and combined just the right amount of humour and fear to make this not just a show, but a highly enjoyable experience. With each story, the stage is transformed into a new set, each one becoming more intense as the show goes on. Just when you think you know what’s coming next, they offer a curveball that makes you jump a little bit higher than the last time.

Joshua Higgott, playing the lead of parapsychologist Phillip Goodman, is a perfect fit. It felt like from minute one everything about Ghost Stories was real and all eyes were fixed on the theatre stage. His delivery, his performance was standout throughout. Paul Hawkyard, Gus Gordon and Richard Sutton are all believable too as their characters, and that’s the thing that makes Ghost Stories stand out versus other horrors. Every story, every character, could have been any one of us in that audience and that’s where the true fear comes in to play. The show concludes with a huge twist, throwing the entire plot on it’s head and for the final ten minutes of the show, you can feel and hear genuine fear in the audience followed by people saying “there’s no way I’m going home now” – we had to go for a drink in fairness!

Aside from the acting, the lighting and sound, were by far, the best I’ve seen in theatre. The use of audio to bring deathly silence matched by crescendos not normally heard on stage, made for thrilling listening. The combination with effective lighting was second to none; just when you think it can’t get any darker, you’re submerged into pitch black, with any audience movement or sound bringing more fear. The lighting within the stories too on stage, was spectacular and it was that audiovisual connection that made Ghost Stories as good as it was.

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this the way I did, and it was the first time I’ve left a theatre texting everyone I know urging them to go and watch. It’s that good.

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