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  • Chris O'Rourke

2:22


Laura Whitmore and Colin O'Donoghue in 2:22 by Danny Robins. Image by Helen Murray


****

Possession. Poltergeist. Paranormal activity. Before our overexposed, desensitised selves got used to seeing unspeakable horrors on screen, both real and imagined, films like The Exorcist, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween and The Ring captured the public imagination and scared it witless. Nowadays, ghost stories in our explainable, twenty-first century can be rationalised away. Yet aren’t stars ghosts? Echoes of something that died a long time ago? Just one of many arguments put forward by four people asking if ghosts exist in the scare-fest that is 2:22 by Danny Robins. First premiering in 2021, 2:22 is essentially a second rate ghost story. But one wrapped up in an impressively compelling play, delivered by a first class ensemble.

Colin O'Donoghue, Laura Whitmore, Shona McGarty, Jay McGuiness in 2:22 by Danny Robins. Image by Helen Murray


Best not to look too closely at the story though. Robins’s dodgy premise of a dinner party argument about the credibility of an event due to occur at 2:22 a.m. suggesting everyone should just shut up and wait till 2:22 a.m. But alcohol flows in limitless abundance so why put off a good argument on the supernatural versus science? Old lovers and friends, new lovers and enemies debating whether the house, a wardrobe, or the infant Phoebe is being haunted by a ghost. Anna Fleischle’s superb set an intersection of old world homeliness and gentrified, hipster renovations. Where Sam and Jenny are building a nest for their recently hatched daughter. Or rather Jenny is. Shona McCarty superb as a whirligig of maternal multitasking worried for her daughter's safety after a paranornal experience. Meanwhile, an impressive Colin O’Donoghue as the cynical, insufferable Sam, a mansplainer with the personality of a toothache, is working on some remote Scottish island observing the stars for a book he’s writing. Graciously honouring Jenny with his presence for the scheduled dinner party. His oldest friend, Laura Whitmore’s psychologist in need of therapy, Lauren, being their guest. The trio making for a platonic ménage-à-trois, leaving a terrific Jay McGuiness as the down to earth Ben, Lauren’s no frills, London boyfriend, looking like a third wheel. Even as Ben, conveniently, has had some experience with ghosts. As so the arguments begin.

Shona McGarty and Colin O'Donoghue in 2:22 by Danny Robins. Image by Helen Murray


And that’s pretty much it till the final, thrilling moments. Directors Matthew Dunster and Isabel Marr resorting to hurried pace and ghost train, rollercoaster, jump-out scares as Robins’s script argues towards its haunting finale. Cued screeching (foxes apparently) and baby monitors, thunderclaps and mood music, flashing, red neon and jolting security lights scream like a dodgy rave where someone has spiked your drink. There’s even the obligatory dry ice. Lucy Carter’s lights and Ian Dickinson’s sound design stupendous in establishing mood and delivering adrenalin induced scares. Deeper scares arriving courtesy of a questionable seance during a compulsory electrical blackout and an ending that will prickle the back of your neck if you haven’t figured it out.

Shona McGarty, Colin O'Donoghue, Jay McGuiness, Laura Whitmore in 2:22 by Danny Robins. Image by Helen Murray


Concealed in Robins’s litany of engaging arguments is a terrific play about how the Nineties are aging. Touches of Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf with its messy, volatile interactions in which sparks fly as nostalgia dredges up history. History needing closure sometimes. All coalescing around four excellent performances. Whitmore’s liberally wine swilling Lauren being a tour-de-force. Indeed, fans of Whitmore, the former Love Island host now stretching her acting muscles, will only love her more. Those who aren’t fans might very well find themselves becoming one. Whitmore's rigorously detailed performance, informed by expressive touches and soulful, penetrating eyes, oozes that easy, natural presence of an old style movie star as she magnetises the gaze. Given that her co-stars turn in memorable performances of their own, that’s no mean feat.


A ghost story theme park ride, 2:22 crosses the finish line in haunting style. It’s not the greatest ghost story, or even the scariest, but 2:22 has its fair share of scares and is terrific fun. Did I mention Whitmore? She's really good.


2:22 by Danny Robins, presented by Runaway Entertainment in association with 3Olympia Theatre, runs at 3Olympia Theatre until August 11.


For more information visit 3Olympia Theatre.


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