Young mother, Jenny (Gemma Ward) is up late at night in her newly renovated house. Once again, she hears it – the sound of footsteps upstairs and something in her baby daughter’s room. It could just be the house settling? But then why does she hear it at the exact same time of 2:22 every night?
The next day, Jenny‘s husband Sam (Remy Hii) returns from a long work trip. The couple host a dinner party inviting Sam‘s old college friend Lauren (Ruby Rose) and her new partner Ben (Daniel MacPherson). Dinner turns to drinks, one drink turns to many, and before they know it, Jenny is confiding in them her fears that this house may be haunted. A sceptic to a fault, it seems a ridiculous idea to Sam but is much more plausible to the spiritual Ben. While being a therapist by trade, Lauren seeks to understand why people are so obsessed with ghosts in the first place.
Then Jenny has an idea – a vigil. The night is young but if her husband Sam and their friends stick around until 2:22 surely, they’ll see she’s not just imagining things! However, over the long night emotions rise and personalities clash. Tensions between friends and lovers boil to the surface thanks to the combination of frustration and alcohol, and bizarre things start happening… Maybe Sam is right and there’s a logical explanation for everything? But what if the thing to truly fear is not a haunting at all but the group’s growing antagonism towards each other?
Danny Robins‘ stage play 2:22 A Ghost Story has become one of the hottest shows around since its 2021 debut. Winner of numerous awards and performing to sold out crowds across several incarnations in both London and Los Angeles, now 2:22‘s original director Matthew Dunster brings us its spectacular Australian premiere at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne!
It’s a challenging thing bringing the haunted house thriller genre to the theatre. Many filmmakers still have trouble with it despite all the added control over presentation the cinematic medium lends. Robins and Dunster tackle this by 2:22 exploring more of its characters’ psyches and their conflict with each other.
What is it about the spiritual world which some people find so comforting? What is it about the unknown that some find it so impossible to open themselves up to? Do we always need a logical explanation? Is it simply our own irrational lizard brains perpetuating our own fear?
Beyond the supernatural, a variety of other themes are explored. This is a dinner party of a group of 30-somethings after all! Issues of class divides, relationship woes and infidelity cause emotions to fluster, while concepts such as gentrification tie back into the haunted house genre in fascinating ways.
All of this is via our dynamic cast and their characters. A veritable who’s who of young Aussie talent has been drawn to this show and they are all brilliant. Ward and Hii representing the irreconcilable nature of religion vs science. We can love each other despite this but it will always be an unbalanced compromise. Ward incapsulating the often-irrational fear a new parent feels every day and all she wants is for her husband to believe in her. As closed-minded Sam Hii can often be frustrating but we can see his own reasons. He is a man of science; ghosts are something he simply cannot reconcile with that.
On the other side we have Rose as this woman who simply wants to enjoy the night despite the hidden rage burning away inside her. As a giant clock on the wall ticks closer to a terrifying finale, we see her becoming more intoxicated. Fed up with the life she has been granted versus the one in front of her she may actually desire. MacPherson as Ben, the often-comedic foil, is still impossibly charming despite his boisterous personality. He’s an outsider but his faith draws Jenny closer to him as the only one who believes her.
An incredible job has been done in “Australinising” the story from its British origins. With input from Eddie Perfect and Gemma Yates-Round, Robins has been able to localise his stage play naturally. Local references, slang, and the general accessibility of the original make it feel like it was always a home-grown Aussie production.
Set design by Anna Fleischle perfectly blends the new and old of a home in mid-renovation. Jenny and Sam are the affluents moving in to gentrify a house making it their own. Installing skylights and giant sliding glass doors for the new family’s telescope views. Tearing down wallpaper and painting over lived history to better suit their own views of the world.
But how scary is this ghost story? Very. The sound design which netted Ian Dickinson a Lawence Olivier Award nomination builds the tension to a fever pitch throughout the play. Not for the faint of heart, scenes are punctuated ending with a blood curdling scream jump scare and cut to black. This is just the first act of 2:22 alone! By the finale, I admit the hairs were standing up on the back of my neck and chills ran down my spine as my mind started playing tricks on me!
2:22 A Ghost Story is stage show thriller which achieves heights many films fail at, even with all their Hollywood magic. A quartet of brilliant actors translate this highly regarded play for Australian audiences. Ruby Rose, already a multi-hyphenate, can add incredible stage actor to her already impressive line-up of talents. An all-around spectacular production that I couldn’t recommend highly enough. Not just to those who are fans of being spooked but to those interested in the magic of live theatre.
2:22 A Ghost Story is currently playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre for strictly limited 4 week run season until 20th August 2023.
For tickets, please visit https://hmt.com.au/222-a-ghost-story
Photography by Eugene Hyland.