2:22 at the Gielgud Theatre
This play is a “ghost story” that tries, and fails spectacularly to be clever. It cannot decide if it wants to be spooky or scary and ends up neither. A tightly written and thoughtful play might aim to induce unease through a shocking, unguessable story line that one could imagine happening to themselves. Or you could shove random, loud and shrill screaming into the play at the end of each scene that has nothing to do with the storyline. The effect left the audience wanting to punch the director and ask “what the fuck is wrong with you?” As for the plot, you would be hard pressed to throw more morsels of maybe worthy things to say: regret of not having children, gentrification, class divide, alcoholism, house conversions, light pollution, true love, Catholicism, over bearing mothers, jealously, and patriarchy; except so little is said of any of them that it felt more like a bet the playwright made in the pub to squeeze them all in. Good acting could maybe smooth over some of this mess but sadly the cast, two couples, couldn’t be less convincing. Most jarringly, Elliot Cowan misunderstood that playing the part of a pretentious and patronising scientist did not require bellowing every line and waving his hands like a cartoon character trying to land a plane. There is what the playwright presumably thinks a member of the working class is like (think Dick Van Dyke), Stephanie Beatriz — that woman from Brooklyn 99 (cue late night re-write to explain why one of the characters is American, for absolutely no reason and to great distraction) whose acting of being drunk involved repeatedly falling over and slurring her words like George best on Wogan, and a wife so bland I can’t recall a single feature of her personality other than she believes in ghosts and doesn’t like her husband — probably because all he does is shout. It is also the only play I know of where Amazon’s Alexa is a fully fledged character, one with more depth than most of the cast.
Danny Robins, our playwright for the night, seemingly wanted every possible permutation for the cast of four to be together on stage to whinge on about some issue or other from the list above. This is the only explanation I can find as to why he created the numerous and increasingly ridiculous contrivances necessary to achieve this result. These ruses became so aimless they became a distraction too far to follow the growing confusion of a narrative. They included running out of wine, needing to smoke in the garden, checking if the gas boiler was working and four, yes four, screaming-baby-needs-attentions. The actual conversation, if that’s what it was, gave a new angle to stilted. It was more like four monologues that had been timed to start one after the other.
Finally, what ghost story would be complete without a twist? This came in the gigantic shape of a meta-irony: not only was there a ghost when we were repeatedly — and at tenuous length — lectured by the yelling academic that there cannot be such things, silly people, but he was the ghost! Can you believe it? I, for one, could not. And neither, given the boredom on their faces, could the two policemen who’s only appearance in the last 60 seconds of this time-titled play (they arrive for absolutely no reason at 2:22 — see, so clever — that’s the time he DIED!!) to give the (welcome?) news to the wife that her cantankerous husband died falling down a dark hill (seriously). It suggested our Danny had no idea how to end this torture other than to hire a couple of desperate actors to just do something. The now dead snappy scientist suddenly disappeared with no explanation, much like this extraordinary play.