There were more than a few moments when this reviewer jumped and gasped during Ghost Stories, which is now showing at the Sydney Opera House. And I wasn’t alone.
Written by Andy Nyman (British actor and star of Death At A Funeral, but also mentalist Derren Brown’s collaborator and a magician in his own right) and Jeremy Dyson (British sketch show performer and writer behind the likes of The League Of Gentlemen and Psychoville), Ghost Stories has had a huge run in the West End. And it certainly has the bleak, yet laugh-aloud humour that characterises the kind of work the writers have been involved with previously. But this is an Australian production, with a five-strong local cast of Lynden Jones, John Gregg, Ben Wood, Aleks Mikic and Tim Franklin, with British director Peter J Snee helming the work.
Tradition has it — since the show first opened five years ago — that audiences who have seen it, don’t say too much about it, lest we spoil the surprises. And there are quite a few. Essentially the work unfolds as a lecture by paranormal psychology specialist Professor Philip Goodman. He leads us through some of his most puzzling cases, and nothing is ever what it seems. Ever. And that’s where we’ll leave that.
The performers are uniformly wonderful in all this, utterly immersed in this odd world they’ve created, which retains its British context with little strain from the actors. Sound, light and effects are nicely deployed, and the various instruments of the theatre are used well.
This is not ground-breaking drama, and it’s not the sort of show theatre nerds will adore, but it is one for those who might like an entertaining night out for its own sake, and it’s certainly a great family outing (as long as the kids are at least 12). There is a repeat visitor discount too — patrons can watch it all over again with their insights to see if they can work it out as it unfolds.
A hugely entertaining night out in which you’ll be constantly caught off guard, but it’s not too overwhelming, despite the warnings. So take the dare — if you dare.