Review – Ghost Stories, Lyric Hammersmith

Wednesday 3 March 2010

The extreme warnings* aboout Ghost Stories at the Lyric Hammersmith were such that Phil decided to go it alone. Aware that Andrew is of a very nervous disposition, the prospect of him jumping into Phil’s lap were enough to cause him moments of “extreme shock and tension”.

The truth is that the Whingers had tickets for Tuesday’s performance but Phil had to pull out due to a much more important engagement than theatre, but he slipped into the Saturday matinée leaving others to soothe Andrew’s nerves.

It would take quite a lot to scare the Phil in a theatre. The prospect of seeing the first act of Gone With the Wind The Musical again might, or being locked in the Cottesloe auditorium overnight, or having to endure the second act of Really Old, Like Forty Five. Or if Richard Jones was to be let loose on a classic musical again, that might send shudders down Phil’s spine.

They producers certainly cranked up the tension before the show, the house lights were off, strings of light bulbs flickering creating a crepuscular gloom, numbers were chalked on the auditorium’s walls and ambient sound all added to the real buzz in the audience.

Written by Jeremy Dyson (League of Gentlemen) and Andy Nyman (Derren Brown‘s collaborator and last seen by the Whingers playing David O. Selznick in Moonlight And Magnolias) and co-directed by them and the Lyric’s Artistic Director Sean Holmes, Ghost Stories has been created to try and scare the hell out of the audience.

The stories are set within a lecture about the supernatural delivered by Professor Philip Goodman (Nyman), illustrated with photographs and the recordings of  interviews with three people who claim to have seen ghosts. The first is about a night watchman, the second about a young man driving late at night and the third is set in a haunted nursery. But that’s about as much as we dare reveal. An announcement at the end pleads “Not to reveal the secrets of Ghost Stories“.

It sets out to shock and make the audience jump as much as possible, the tension builds nicely in each tale as you’re not sure what to expect and the stories are played out on mainly dark sets so you’re never quite sure what might suddenly appear. The pay-offs are never quite as good as the fear of anticipation and while some of the audience do jump, there’s nothing quite like the famous moment in the stage production of Deathtrap that had the audience screaming in shock, and in Phil’s case his Maltesers shooting into the air.

There is one very clever effect (special effects by Scott Penrose who also did Paint Never Dries) which the Whingers had never experienced in a theatre before and creeps up on the audience at different times causing a ripple of giggles, but it would be unfair to reveal more. And there’s prescience in the lead up to the dénouement with its theme of bullying – perhaps Gordon Brown should pop in and see what might become of him. But ultimately GS is never quite as shocking as it sets out to be. Phil overheard two elderly ladies leaving the theatre saying,”I wanted to be really scared”. “Yes, so did I,” came the disappointed reply.

But it’s all good fun and plays out in an agreeable 80 minutes without an interval and the audience was enthusiastic.

Andrew writes: What a shame about the warning* because Ghost Stories just doesn’t do what it says on the tin. But it’s the tin that’s at fault not the creosote which is brilliant, imaginative, ingeniously staged, breathtakingly well designed (by Jon Bausor ) and playfully lit (by James Farncombe). I’d happily sit through this again. Wonderful. A shame they’ve over-hyped the marketing.



* The enticing warning states: Please be advised that Ghost Stories contains moments of extreme shock and tension. The show is unsuitable for anyone under the age of 16. We strongly advise those of a nervous disposition to think very seriously before attending.

This is the site referred to in the show and includes the photograph demonstrating pareidolia . If you’re intending to see Ghost Stories better not look.

Good to see that some effort has gone into the programme (£3) which includes a ghost story by Dyson, a Horror Quiz, Dyson’s Top Ten Ghost Stories, Nyman’s Top Ten Scary Movies and a feature by Nyman about a TV thriller Only A Scream Away that started his obsession with fear.


52 Responses to “Review – Ghost Stories, Lyric Hammersmith”

  1. Kat Says:

    Programme was definitely good value – particularly so seeing as I cribbed over someone else’s shoulder. I spent pretty much the whole thing after the initial jump shocks with one finger crammed in my ear as I’m an enormous wuss, it was cleverly done and the balance of humour and genuine fright was good, but for true malevolent terror, it’ll always be The Woman In Black.

    • matt Says:

      Seriously save your money! utter rubbish! not once did me and my partner jump, if they had spent more time on the writing of the show, that on the preview/trailer, we would be maybe on to something.

      SAVE YOUR MONEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • ss Says:

        I agree entirely! What a total waste of money!!! It was anything but scary. More comical. I would strongly recommend that you save your money.

  2. If you’re into portmanteau, then it’s fine:

    Made in Scotland: #9,10 More Ghosts, Morality

    I am, but I was far from thrilled.

    shrugs shoulders (there’s no symbol).


  3. mandy Says:

    well again, lotsa hype over substance- all hat and no cigar- had the potential to be really good, it fell short- just one thing wrong really- just not scary enough, and im a wimp when it comes to ‘scary stuff’ dont watch horror movies for that reason, so if it didnt scare me, it isnt scary enough!

  4. Ninanananoonoo Says:

    Went to see this show this weekend, and am ABSOLUTELY gutted that I wasted eighty of my VERY hard earned pounds on this trash! The only thing that was terrifying was not knowing which fruit pastille I was going to pick out of my handbag in the dark!! Please, please, please do not waste your time on this – it just isn’t worth it! I’m so disappointed to have to write this (honest) review, coz I expected a LOT more from these usually very talented boys! :-((

  5. Glen Says:

    Must be hard economic times at the Duke of Yorks as programme costs seem to have soared since Hammersmith.
    Went last night and a basic programme is now £3.50 and the programme you mention full of the good stuff is now £8!

    As for the show itself – total damp squib, 80mins of my life I’ll never get back. Hype over substance

  6. Ronnie Sargeant Says:

    If this show didnt go over the top with the ‘so scary’ marketing then they woulnt be able to put bums in seats and as for ‘keep the secret’ at the end of the show is a way of saying ‘please dont tell people how dissapointed they will be’. I feel totally robbed of almost £90.00 and it should be made more public that people are being mis-lead by the over hyped scary show that isnt scary BUT is boring. A total rip off.

  7. Jo Says:

    Absolute rubbish. Hype Hype Hype – in the same way that the marketeers hyped Paranomal Activity with shots of a scared audience, it is the same with this. No clever stories, no clever theatrical illusions, the only thing that makes you jump is a LOUD soundtrack every now and then – a cheap trick! Anyone who had the pleasure of seeing the masterpiece ‘Shockheaded Peter’ years ago will know how a scary, creative and innovative theatrical production should really be done. Obviously the boys didn’t see this! It’s a shame because I wanted to like it!

  8. Londy Says:

    The scariest part of the play is when someone in the audience let out an explosive sneeze.

  9. Trish Says:

    I just didnt get it? i wasnt scared at all and I am the biggest fairy going/


  10. Jemima Says:

    Disappointing. Can someone explain why the mobile phones go off all the time and they stare mindlesly at the phone without speaking for minutes on end. What are we as an audience supposed to deduce from these phantom calls? The whole production lacked sophistication – quite crass really.

  11. GEMMA Says:

    wheres the site where people say GOOD things about this ?! I loved it, acting was great, was really different, that girl at the start ‘daddy’, and the creature at the end that was bullied, the make up was great ! there was comedy thrown in and facts, the more i think about it the more i like the twist at the end too, ok, so it werent the scariest thing in the world, i done the ‘pasaje de terror’ after and got chased by regan from the exorcist and nearly had a heart attack ! but GHOSTSTORIES was entertaining.

    • ronnie sargeant Says:

      you are missing the point, the trailor and whole advertising thing about this show was not to just entertain you, it was supposed to frighten you, thats why we are negative about the whole thing. i was so looking forward to what they said about it being the most scariest show ever.

  12. Peter Says:

    My partner and I saw this on Saturday the14th.

    My heartiest Congratulations to everyone involved. You’ve managed to show me the Worst peice of theatre that I have ever seen in the West End.

    A total waste of 115 Quid.

  13. Dave Davies Says:

    The hype and marketing of the show certainly
    got us to book and 8 of us were looking forward to being scared. We were really disapointed and felt as if we were conned. Do not waste your money there are lots more shows in London that would welcome your hard earned cash. Tell everyone you know this is packaged very well but the contents are a real let down. The sooner the public realise what a rip off this is the sooner the show will stop and lets get a good value for money production on instead. They need reporting to trading standards

    • Sue Says:

      I could not agree more. Most of the audience left the theatre in a stunned silence… not, I hasten to add, because of the much hyped performance, but far more likely out of shock and embarrassment that they (like all of us there) had spent a small fortune and allowed ourselves to be taken in by such drivel.
      Really, save your money!

  14. nets Says:

    the only scary thing about this production was the price of the tickets, dont bother.

  15. Fantastic marketing – crap show – pointless theatre – looking for a refund under trade description act.

  16. Jax Says:

    Shame to see these bad reviews. We loved it. It was one of the most unique and atmospheric theatrical productions we have ever seen, and we’re still trying to work out how they managed to do some of the stuff we saw on stage.
    There was the right mix of dark humour and shocks for us. I actually screamed so hard at one point my throat hurt — and I am NOT easily frightened and love horror films etc.
    So I give it 5 out of 5 and would even consider going to see it again, now i know what to expect.

  17. janina Says:

    Went to see the ‘show’ last night with a friend – it was embarrassingly bad. Don;t know how the actors can ‘perform’ in something so badly written, under developed and peurile. Please, please please save your money – it is the worst show I have ever seen and I have seen some utter rubbish!

  18. Jamie Says:

    Such a shame to see these silly comments. I didn’t love it, but i enjoyed it alot. I’m sorry, but that WAS scary, I don’t care what you all wanna be Rambo’s have to say, I was hiding behind my coat during the first story. I think the real problem that you lot had was you didn’t let yourself become scared. The whole point of that sort of theatre is that they build the tension up and up, until a point in which they could go ‘boo’ and everyone would scream. Most of the work has to be done by the viewer. And to the idiot who said ‘pointless theatre’, its small for a reason you fool. They didn’t look at a picture of the stage and say, “Can 5 of us fit on there? Yeah that’ll do”. Its for atmosphere, and it bloody well worked.

  19. Ian Says:

    Jeez…….I wish I had found this site before I chose to take my wife to London for a ‘Special’ night out. She loves the scary stuff and we anticipated a great show. IT WAS SH*T!! – Total waste of money and it was embarrasing when they came back on stage for an oncore….hardly anyone clapped. End of.

  20. Nadeem Says:

    Went to see this last night with my wife and I have to agree with the majority – what a load of hyped up rubbish! The only people who will be scared by anything in this are those who don’t often watch horror films, read ghost stories or watch paranormal documentaries – all of which are MUCH BETTER made than this waste of time and money. We went to see this ‘truly terrifying’ experience and for the most part were kept waiting for something to happen. It is often said that less is more, but unfortunately when you are talking about horror, you need to pile on the scares and tension – relentlessly. Some of the scares in this are so lame that you wonder what the writers were thinking. I would not recommend this to ANYONE – please don’t believe the hype, as that is precisely what it is. Just rent a horror DVD instead – you will be glad you saved your money.

  21. Maria Roberts Says:

    bsolute rubbish. Its all hype and nothing else. Very clever marketing and PR to draw in the punters – they get lucky we are left with a poor story line, amateur sets and performances and very little in jumps and thrills. The worst part was having to listen to Andy Nyman’s lecture – I felt about 12 years old! It goes on, and on, and on! We went to the 9pm show so that we would be suitably scared, but found ourselves falling asleep in boredom! Believe me when I say this is all hype. I wished I had taken note of reviewers who had said the same. I could have saved over £100 on the 3 tickets I bought.

  22. P Mayfield Says:

    I cannot express just how disappointing this show was. At no point was I or any of my party even the tiniest bit scared. We had been really looking forward to this. What a waste of time and money. To create any kind of fear, the writers need to feed the audiences imagination – this was told in a very boring university lecturer style. I have seen many shows and this is the very first I have felt let down by. No-one around us was scared either. I would have walked out in disgust but I just kept thinking that surely it must pick up soon. It didn’t.

  23. Jo Andrews Says:

    We are probably all helping to market the show anyway. People will be wasting their money just to see the infamous “Worst show in London”. At least with that handle no one will be disappointed

  24. […] another recent West End transfer, the much overhyped Ghost Stories, which has attracted no small amount of opprobrium, Clybourne Park has the potential to shock everyone, especially during the second half, and […]

  25. Simon Thorpe Says:

    Thanks for these reviews from Canada. Show’s about to start in Toronto in April. Might take heed in the advice. I’d like to see it for a lark but I’m on the negative side now.

  26. Suzie Says:

    I really liked it. I had my fingers stuck my ears within 15 minnutes and they stayed there for the rest of the show. The only part of the trip which was scarier than the actual show was the programmes. £4 for bios and credits, no info about the show at all. You needed to pay £10 for a brochuere for that (apologies for poor spelling)

  27. Dave Davies Says:

    Suzie if you kept your finger in your ears you will have missed all the people around you moaning on what a load of rubbish the show was!

  28. Suzie Says:

    Hahaha, true true. I went with my college and we all wet ourselves. We all thought we couldn’t be scared, by the end, we all raced back to the coach in case a monster got us! Still everyone is entitled to their own opinion 🙂

  29. […] is unlike the last to transfer from the Lyric: Ghost Stories worked well in the smaller venue but fails to live up to expectations in its new incarnation at the Duke of York due to an over-the-top (albeit award-winning) marketing […]

  30. hiro Says:

    Powerfully bad show.

  31. MrGrem Says:

    I wished i read some of the reviews on here before i paid my good money for Ghost stories. I got suckered into the hype and raving reviews.

    This show is:
    – Over hyped and over rated
    – Bored in most parts of the show
    – not scary (maybe if i was 12 years old then it would have been more fun).

    – waste of money

    Your better off booking yourself some tickets for ” women in black” (much better production and creepier).

  32. Dave Davies Says:

    Watchdog is back on the TV if we all express how appalling this play was maybe then it can get some national TV publicity and get it shut down they have people on that programme who have conned less people the sooner this stops trading and robbing people night by night the better

  33. Richard Andrews Says:

    I have told them but more and more should – it is rip-off theatre!

  34. Lanna Says:

    I just saw this in Toronto Canada…COMPLETE AMATEUR OVERPRICED GARBAGE! As countless of others have said, DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY.

    I wish I found this site before I wasted money on this crap. Silly me, I went to Ghost Stories OFFICIAL websites and Facebook groups/Twitters/ etc….where they HEAVILY MODERATE AND DELETE EVERY SINGLE NEGATIVE COMMENT AND REVIEW (which is about 95% of them) in order to make you think that the show ONLY gets GOOD reviews. Utter nonsene and deception! False advertising! Crooks I tell you!!

  35. Dave Rees Says:

    Overhyped garbage. Anyone who says this scares them has probably been paid to say so! The third story, the haunted nursery, just fizzles out without an ending. Do not waste your money. Its like a kids halloween trail.

  36. David Says:

    I entered to a video of all these famous people saying how scary it was. They must have been paid.
    It says it is written by the League of Gentlemen – well its not, only by Jeremy Dyson.
    The ‘scares’ were all predictable and could be seen well before they happened.
    The scenes of a screaming audience in infra red reminded me of Paranormal Activity. Quite similar too, as that was overrted and not scary too.
    It says at the end not to reveal the secret – not sure how you can as nothing is explained.
    Don’t waste your money – Papa Lazarou in the League of Gentlemen is more scary

  37. Charlie Says:

    Depends what your expectations are going into a show. I had heard it was good. Some said don’t waste your money. I went in hoping it was going to be good. Some of their tricks and the psychology that at times was almost subliminal made the show truly enthralling. Without giving too much away watch the subtle changes in the lead actors appearance. Understand what the writers/actors are trying to do here. Sensational piece of work. I really loved it.

  38. ssss Says:

    thought it ws lol

  39. Pixie Says:

    It was not what i expected but it was still pretty poor in my

  40. Chris Says:

    I understand this rubbish ends its west end run around october this year. I really hope it doesn’t return anywhere, ever. The shysters behind this scam have conned thousands upon thousands of people. Fair play to this site for allowing us our (mostly damning) views.

    • Richard Andrews Says:

      I hear it is going to Broadway. Broadway?!?!? How does this show survive alongside War Horse or Blood Brothers when they are light years apart?

  41. Jo Says:

    Actually I didn’t understand it at all – Can anyone explain the ‘surprise’ ending? And what was the significance of the cat food? (or was it a red herring ha ha)

  42. Hi there colleagues, how iis the whole thing, and what you would like to say on the topic of
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