The ghostly stagecraft: design and effects in 2:22 - A Ghost Story
Building suspense and creating a chilling atmosphere can be a tough job in the theatre. Not only do the actors have to perform with credible emotion, the design and effects must also be on point to complement the scary story.
Since its debut in 2021, 2:22 - A Ghost Story has been drawing audiences not just for the series of stars who have lined up to be in it - Lily Allen and Cheryl among them - but also for its ghostly effects and brilliant writing. Let’s take a look at how the stagecraft of this acclaimed ghost story play helps to make it so much fun to watch.
Designed by Anna Fleischle, the set appears to be a normal domestic home at first glance. It mixes the past with the present, featuring vintage tasselled lampshades and old fashioned wallpaper alongside a modern kitchen with quartz countertops, and the juxtaposition reflects the gentrification of the area that new parents Jenny and Sam have moved to. In doing so, it hints at the house’s past and subtly suggests that there may be previous inhabitants who have never truly left. Dark corners also reveal surprises throughout the play that add to the paranormal ambience.
Creating extra tension is the large digital clock that counts down to the events of 2:22am - while you know something is coming, you can’t tell what.
Sound and light
The play is set in the evening and overnight, so while the set is large and brightly lit, there are shadowy nooks that suggest something could be lurking in the darkness. This leads to a constant expectation that something may jump out - and as is often the case, the audience’s imagination makes up for what’s not really there. There’s also a pulsing red neon light that surrounds the set, adding an atmospheric twist, and cunning illusions that may or may not be the work of a supernatural presence.
Then there are the jump-scares that keep audiences on the edge of their seats. Scene changes are hailed with horror movie screams, and the sudden shriek of urban foxes provides a frightening red herring, breaking the mounting tension briefly before it begins to rebuild. The baby monitor adds a low level element of suspense too - it’s via the monitor that Jenny swears she can hear footsteps and crying in the house each night at 2:22, so every noise that it emits holds something potentially ghostly.
Where to see 2:22 - A Ghost Story
Following five successful seasons, 2:22 - A Ghost Story has moved to the Apollo Theatre and is playing there until 17 September 2023. Starring Jaime Winstone as Jenny, it has become the West End’s must-see thriller for those who love plays featuring a curious incident, spooky goings-on and a splash of humour. Get your tickets today.