Ghost Stories’, Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s portmanteau of terror-tales was first performed in 2010, has had two successful West End runs and subsequently ended up on the silver screen in 2018. It is also enjoying global success, this spooky saga a transnational triumph.

Commencing with a photo-montage set to Italian synth-proggers Goblin’s theme to Dario Argento’s 1975 giallo film ‘Profondo Rosso’ the pre-sense of tense is more than present as scientist and lecturer Professor Goodman (Simon Lipkin) discusses three case studies (The night-watchman, the young driver, the boorish City trader). All three have tales concerning the ‘paranormal’ and the ‘abnormal’ with the lecturing rationalist raising a cynical and quizzical eye at the notion of the spectral and the phantasmic confidently asserting the theory of Pareidolia where the brain makes something of nothing, seeing patterns in unconnected forms. The age old battle of science versus superstition, illusion as delusion. Or are they?

A ‘percipient’, we are informed, is an individual who has had a supernatural experience which Goodman argues is simply their version of the truth, a play-off between what is it we ‘see’ and what is it we want to ‘see’? Are these occurrences simply a trick of the eye, the mind, the mind’s eye, the light?

The vignettes all posit the questions of what is fear, how is it invoked, evoked and provoked? Do the things that scare us emanate from within/without? What part do the sense of shame and guilt play in feeling accompanied by a presence? How do stories and storytelling manifest in society and communicate shared histories and folklore? Crucially, what can horror stories and terror tales tell us about our contemporary state of affairs? Answer? A lot.

The set and stage production are outstanding (Nyman has worked extensively with illusionist Derren Brown), with sound and light and silence as violence integral ingredients in the bumps and jumps in the night. The actors are excellent in their conveyance of their conviction, their absolute certainty in the veracity of their encounters.

The production has undergone several changes since its inception, the writers eager to seek different, more satisfying finales and keep the shock value at a premium. See this play, go on, dare ya.

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