When Darkness Falls by James Milton & Paul Morrisey. The Park Theatre, London to 4 September 2021 & on tour. 3***. William Russell

There are thrills a plenty, some jump out of the seat moments, and a ghost or two in this tale set on Guernsey one stormy night when the power fails and things go bump in the night. The problem is that it really does not hold together at the end. The premise does not bear examination no matter how much one suspends disbelief. It is, however, a decent attempt to become the new Woman in Black, which has been around quite long enough. But that is about as far as one can go.
John Blondel (Will Barton), a history teacher, is in his cluttered office preparing the introduction for his blog which is to include an interview with a local expert on the supernatural named only as The Speaker (Alex Phelps). We learn that Blondel was once a local newspaper editor and that features about ghosts were popular space fillers.
Then the Speaker arrives, wet from the storm and behaving most peculiarly, and starts to tell his five ghost stories drawn from events in Guernsey’s past – a woman accused of witchcraft who gives birth on the funeral pyre, a girl who sees her sailor lover murdered and a homicidal Nazi who murdered prisoners building Guernsey’s hospital tunnels among them. The lights go out, then come back on again, phones ring, but nobody is there, objects whirl all over the place, a phantom appears and every now and then Blondel fleshes out the Speaker’s narrative by playing one of the characters in the story.
They are all, it soon becomes clear, somehow linked and it is when we come to number five that the explanation is revealed, except – no spoiler – it just could not have happened.
It is not meant to be one of those stress relaxing jokes to send the audience out feeling the world is still safe, rather a final turn of the screw to leave one gasping with terror. The performances are fine, however, and the sound and special effects good. But it never scared me. However I felt much the same about The Woman in Black.
Four of the stories are gory and draw on the island’s distinctly shady past. It is the fifth, which should bind them all together into a satisfying whole, that lets things down. That necessary knockout final moment is missing.

Director: Paul Morrisey
Set Design: Justin Williams
Lighting Design: Bethany Gupwell.
Magic & Illusion Design: John Bulleid.
Sound Design: Daniel Higgott.
Codtume Design: Nicole Gorbett.
Production Photograph: Pamela Raith

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