31 August 2021 (released)
26 August 2021
I’m not sure I’ll be rushing for a romantic break in Guernsey after ninety minutes of truly horrible history and ghostly revenge set on the Channel Island. No wonder there are hauntings as Guernsey had the most brutal witch hunts in the seventeenth century and was occupied by the Nazis for five years in the second world war. Writers Paul Morrisey and James Milton mix classic spooky story-telling with intriguing histories and it felt great to be settling into our seats as the darkness on the Park Theatre stage deepened.
It’s a stormy night in the dimly lit office of bumbling John (Will Barton) who is up late to record a vlog (if he can remember what a vlog is) for the Guernsey Historical Society. Footsteps in the corridor signal the arrival of a drenched paranormal researcher (Alex Phelps). He says he has five stories to tell and there is a creeping feeling that it’s only a matter of time before his narratives will become all too real for John, a self-professed cynic with a scientific or logical answer for everything.
Fabulous lighting and sound design combine to bring these stories to life with dripping tunnels, clanging bells and noisy taverns. So much so that you might begin to wonder why create such a cluttered and realistic office set. But there is some lovely stage trickery in store from John Bulleid (Magic and Illusion Design).
As well as telling a good old yarn, ‘When Darkess Falls’ makes a delightfully convincing case for believing in the paranormal. The debate between the two characters kicks off from the start with ‘Histories are just a set of lies agreed upon’ being countered by ‘Ghost stories can be related to degenerative brain disease’ but perhaps more subtly in the Freudian idea ghosts as a manifestation of the psychological pain of unfinished business. Indeed, it is guilt that lies at the heart of each of these paranormal happenings. This added food for thought, makes for an entirely satisfying night at the theatre.