The most important thing to say about Ghost Stories, currently at The Lowry, is that it’s a unique, memorable stage experience delivered with real intelligence, showmanship and skill. In fact, there’s not much else one can say about it without giving the entire game away. The curtain closes with an announcement asking the audience to ‘keep the secrets of Ghost Stories’ and sure enough it’s best seen knowing as little about it beforehand as possible. Even the title isn’t giving much away, though it turns out to be perfectly chosen. Be assured, this is a show which features stories. And yes, there are ghosts.
Ten years on from its Liverpool Playhouse debut, Ghost Stories has been honed to a fine point by writer/directors Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, with co-director Sean Holmes. This touring version is extremely effective, gripping throughout and downright scream-out-loud alarming at points. If you have any doubts that a stage play can scare you, Ghost Stories is ready to prove you wrong. It can be pitch-black in tone, even grim, but then it can also be very funny and the cast here, particularly Paul Hawkyard and Richard Sutton, have tremendous fun mining that humour. For all its ghost train trappings, though – and it’s quite a ride if you’re willing to go with it – there is real substance amid the clever stage trickery. The characters are thoughtfully sketched and, ultimately, it’s a fascinating look at what it really means to be haunted. If you’re paying attention, the clues to the secrets of Ghost Stories are there from the start.
Over the years the show has been refined, but by no means has it become blandly slick. As a touring show, it works far better than most in large venues such as The Lowry’s Lyric Theatre and pulls off the neat trick of being genuinely involving and atmospheric, with a particularly striking use of sound design. All told Ghost Stories is a brilliant confection and well worth catching if you get the chance. Be warned, though, that you may run up your leccy bill when, after seeing the show, you leave the landing light on at night. Plus, you may never listen to Anthony Newley the same way again.
Ghost Stories is at the Salford Lowry from February 18-22, 2020. For more information or to book tickets, click here. Subsequent venues on the 2020 UK tour include York’s Grand Opera House, Liverpool Playhouse and Sheffield Lyceum.
To read Northern Soul’s interview with Jeremy Dyson, click here.