Theatre review - When Darkness Falls

I’m not a fan of ghost tales and small scale productions rarely manage to stage them convincingly. However, I’m delighted to report that James Milton and Paul Morrissey’s When Darkness Falls proves a joyful 90-minute celebration of story-telling, produces a genuinely eerie chill, and is impeccably acted.

Set on the small island of Guernsey, John Blondel (Will Barton, who played the title role in The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson) runs the local historical society. As part of his weekly vlog series, he has invited a young writer and folklore researcher (Alex Phelps), to give a talk about his findings.

The writer arrives in Blondel’s untidy office after a fierce storm, and proceeds to tell him five stories about hauntings on the island - many based on historic events - which he has collected in a book entitled ‘When Darkness Falls’.

The tales cover four centuries and involve some grisly murders. These range from the burning alive of five women deemed witches - one of whom gave birth while she was burning - to the brutal murder of an English soldier in an underground tunnel when the island was occupied by the Nazis.

The storyteller believes the victims still roam the island seeking vengeance and haunting the islanders. Blondel initially tries to dismiss the paranormal sightings which, he claims, are fuelled by superstition. But the most terrifying tale is left until the end.

Morrissey also directs and, despite one too many blackouts which Blondel blames on ‘blown fuses’, succeeds in keeping us on the edge of our seats. He is aided by a terrific production team: Bethany Gupwell’s clever lighting, Daniel Higgott’s evocative sound, John Bulleid’s illusions and some well-timed aircon add to the chilling atmosphere.

Phelps is superb as the pale, lean storyteller, relating each story with such quiet commitment he leaves us spellbound. Barton also impresses as the cynical historian who plays various supporting roles during the telling.

Don’t miss. 

Park Theatre until Sept 4.

Originally published by the Islington Tribune