When Darkness Falls, 2 Stars

When Darkness Falls
Richmond Theatre 9th to 11th Feb 2023
then a UK Tour (Details below)

“When Darkness Falls is a brand-new spine-chilling ghost story that delivers a twisted, terrifying and thrilling tale that will “leave you cowering in your seat.” (The Guardian) On a stormy night on the small island of Guernsey, a young paranormal expert joins a sceptical history teacher to record the first in a series of podcasts based on the island’s incredible folklore and paranormal history. As the expert regales his horrifying stories, the teacher learns that we all have our own truth. Our own story. Ghosts that haunt us. That bring the past, present and future together in unexpected ways. Ways that can threaten to unsettle everything we think we know. Inspired by true events, this powerful new production by James Milton and Paul Morrissey draws us into dark pasts, reveals disturbing truths and explores the power of stories. Perhaps most importantly, the ones we tell ourselves.”

Review by Richard Lambert, 2 Stars

The Soundscape playing as we take our seats sounds like it is a radio broadcast of a shipping forecast, rather flat and unexciting. Then one of the actors does some business on the stage. Then there is a thunderclap and the house lights snap off. Except there are still ushers with flashlights in the auditorium showing patrons to their seats which detracts slightly from the planned shock.

And there are several loud thunder claps throughout the performance – which are not really scary or ghostly, just a simple mechanism to startle.

The Sound levels are very unbalanced – rain that sounds like horses hooves on cobble stones, mobile phone rings that are very loud, while the actors appear to be unmic’d and occasionally difficult to hear above all the background sounds that are fairly continuous. There is a prop mic on the table where most of the blocking is set so could easily add mics there, or front boundary or rifle mics – any of which would have helped lift the audibility of the voices.

The lighting lacks any front light so the faces are never fully lit. Occasionally it would be nice to add a little front light as it’s quite tiring only seeing the actors’ faces from side lights. The side lights themselves splash on the black cloth border legs which isn’t helpful to the overall look of the show.

The highlight of the show is the Set Design. It’s an office/study space that looks well worn and suitably cluttered. Justin Williams has delivered a remarkable set that includes an external corridor with semi-opaque windows so you can see anyone entering or leaving the space.

There are a couple of illusions – a chair moves, a filing cabinet drawer opens, a shelf falls down – none of which are especially remarkable, nor is there any great response to these occurrences from the actors.

A knocked over paper waste basket remains on its side the entire production despite both actors standing by it on several occasions. I was wondering why neither picked it up rather than listening to the script. But then it was clear in the 2nd half that it housed a lighting effect for the fire effect.

The ghost stories are all told in reported speech and while the actors do their best to convey the stories, the loud thunder claps and flickering of the lights don’t land with impact and seem irrelevant to the stories. It’s a rather long evening that fails to send shivers.

Photo credit: Pamela Raith Photography

WHEN DARKNESS FALLS A Ghost Story by James Milton and Paul Morrissey

Wednesday 9th – Saturday 11th February

Thursday 16th – Saturday 18th February

Thursday 23rd – Saturday 25th February

Monday 27th February – Saturday 4th March
LOWRY, Salford

Tuesday 7th – Saturday 11th March

Tuesday 21st – Saturday 25th March

Tuesday 4th – Saturday 8th April

Wednesday 12th – Saturday 15th April
CURVE, Leicester

Tuesday 18th – Saturday 22nd April

Wednesday 26th – Saturday 29th April

Cast & Creatives

The Speaker – Thomas Dennis
John Blondel – Tony Timberlake
Director – Paul Morrissey
Set Designer – Justin Williams
Lighting Designer – Bethany Gupwell
Sound Designer – Ollie Durrant
Costume Designer – Nicole Garbett
Illusion Designer – John Bulleid
Casting – Jim Arnold Casting