looking, listening, shopping and eating in London, and beyond...
Search This Blog
Tuesday, 21 September 2010
THE POWER OF OUR SENSES - Ghost Stories
WARNING: PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT GHOST STORIES CONTAINS MOMENTS OF EXTREME SHOCK AND TENSION. THE SHOW IS UNSUITABLE FOR ANYONE UNDER THE AGE OF 15. WE STRONGLY ADVISE THOSE OF A NERVOUS DISPOSITION TO THINK VERY SERIOUSLY BEFORE ATTENDING.
This is the warning given before you attend GHOST STORIES, dubbed the scariest show in London. As the final curtain falls the audience are asked (over the PA System) to kindly not give away any of the show’s secrets, so I’m afraid I can’t go into too much detail, instead I thought I would talk about the effect of the show on me and how this is achieved.
The show sets out as a lecture in which the audience are all involved. Andy Nyman is brilliant as Professor Philip Goodman and reminded me slightly of Ricky Gervais. The other three men that make up the cast are also very convincing, but I think that’s about all I am allowed to say! The professor talks to us directly from the stage and asks us to participate at times. The audience is lured into a false sense of security and laughter which only heightens the anxiety. Physically we are involved too – with elements of the story around us in the theatre. You become part of the scene. This is thanks to writers and directors, Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman, who have done a miraculous job creating this deeply unsettling script and production.
Ghost Stories takes you away from theatre conventions. The auditorium is decorated (if you can call it that) with rubbish and tape and plastic to look appropriately dark, dingy and uncomfortable. As you take your seat, there is no light or programme sellers to welcome you in, instead a dimly lit theatre is haunted with a soundtrack of drips and rumbles and eerie screeches. There is no interval which builds up tension and you are warned: if you leave the theatre during the performance you will be unable to return.
I came away from the Ghost Stories experience with a strong opinion: this show aims to scare and shock and it definitely succeeds in both missions. It uses the power of the senses to manipulate the audience. Hearing is used most prominently think of the overwhelming effect of film music. The use of silence also contributes to the ambience. Sound is thrown around confusing you and constantly making you worry about what is behind you (I must have looked round several dozen times). Sight is the most overt of the senses used to frighten – and the special effects and lighting contribute enormously in this show. Smell and touch are also used during Ghost Stories, more subtly. At times a gentle wind is blown through the audience. They also manage to send aromas associated with the story across the theatre, for instance, when bleach is mentioned in the script the smell of bleach gradually wafts through the auditorium.
All these elements combined with the hype in the audience and I was properly terrified. It didn’t help that behind me sat two St John’s Ambulance staff, I quickly asked them if they were attending for fun or work and was disturbed to find out that they were here ‘just in case’. Then as the show began I noticed the seat next to me was empty, and began stupidly to convince myself that it was to be used during the performance. Maybe a person would suddenly appear, or a hand would reach up from it and grab me. The only sense that remains is taste, and although it wasn’t used directly, I definitely left the theatre with the taste of fear in my mouth.