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When Darkness Falls

James Milton and Paul Morrissey

Paul Morrissey Ltd and associates

Oldham Coliseum

October 25-29, 2022; 2hr

Peter Duncan as the podcasting teacher in When Darkness falls
Peter Duncan as podcasting teacher John Blondel in When Darkness falls. All pics: Pamela Raith

Do theatrical ghost stories really scare anyone these days - especially in a modern society inured by genuinely unpleasant movies and natural nasties? I mean, just look at your gas bill for a real shock.

The Lady in Black is a play with a few seconds of genuine creepiness, and as if to raise the stakes, this play, based mainly on genuine folklore from Guernsey, has plenty of flashes, bangs and blackouts, so boo to you...

I often think the only truly unsettling play – still to be written – is the one that makes audience members feel they really are in danger – like here for anyone walking out to the loo in one of the blackouts...

This isn't that play. James Milton and Paul Morrissey's When Darkness Falls is a traditional but rather static ghost thriller with a nice basic idea and a second half that gets much of the way towards realising its aspirations. Ultimately it is let down by a dull first half and generally confusing writing, which makes it hard for the actors - Peter Duncan and Daniel Rainford - to make their characters real, rather than vessels for the words.

The basic premise really is interesting: senior teacher and sceptic John Blondel (Duncan) stays behind at his school in his dump of an office to finish off his first podcast – for which he is expecting a paranormal-researching guest interviewee, (Rainford).

The interviewee arrives, late, and the interview progresses with an increasingly jittery lecturer getting slightly rattled by stories - culled in excrutiating detail from Guernsey folk tales and ghostly figures, dark deeds and portents of doom.

At the half we're half-way through the stories and things aren't going well: we've had an episode of the duo playing out scenes from the past - a move I guess is supposed to make us forget we've basically been watching two men chatting for nearly an hour.

But in the second half - and I won't spoil it for those still to go - the four stories and the present start to merge and our sceptic isn't quite so sceptical any more...

The problem is that this is a bit too late: there is little in the way of light and shade (ignoring the obvious lightning and blackout effects, that is) in the direction and the two actors, game though they are, have an awful lot of storytelling - too much - to get through in around two hours.

More info and tickets here


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