Let this be a warning: you shouldn't go alone.
Playing at the MAST Theatre this week is When Darkness Falls, a chilling ghost story, both mentally and physically. As the stories unfold, you will feel something else coming and leering over your shoulder, sucked into the intense drama while trying (and occasionally failing) not to close your eyes.
Based on true events, When Darkness Falls presents us with John, a Historian trying his best to record a vlog about the paranormal, who receives his guest speaker that is an expert when it comes to ghost stories. The mood is set with the oncoming threat of a storm as we are reminded of the secluded nature of Guernsey, ‘an island quite on its own’. The guest tells John five ghost stories during their meeting, each one enticing to both the audience and John onstage. It is that enticement that makes the show quite thrilling indeed. Throughout the stories, the actors switch between their modern-day characters and the characters of the stories, adding a visceral yet muddied divide between what is real “now: and what may have once been real and already happened.
The show itself appears quite simply laid out with the stage set as the warming reminiscence of a smoky editor’s office. We see the dim lights, the cloudy hallway, the breakable objects. Yet, as we learn, even the most unexpected set piece may cause a jump, with one member of our audience bursting into laughter after an intense build-up; as they say, ‘scaring people is just a way of having fun’.
While there were only two actors, Will Barton as John opposite Alex Phelps (who resembled Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner frequently), there were not any moments that lacked intrigue. Phelps especially was able to draw the audience in, capturing the drama and terror of his ghost stories. It was perhaps opposite Phelps that Barton sometimes fell short: often imitating those from history, Barton didn’t seem to fully commit to many of the scenes, though perhaps this was through fault of the direction.
When Darkness Falls also presented interesting insights into a few topics to which I was previously uncertain of. For example, we learn a lot about the ecosystem of Guernsey, full of strange superstitions and a breeding ground for horror, and certainly a place to check off a ‘must-visit list’. We also gain a perception of history, that it is ‘just lies agreed upon’, where there is no real differentiation between it and the paranormal, and that people really do believe what they’ve been told. This torment of historical viewpoints almost immediately into the performance lowered an audience’s trust in what they already believe, adding to both the intrigue and the anticipation.
When Darkness Falls is perfectly suited to this time of year, though make sure you wear something warm and bring a friend you can desperately cling onto.
When Darkness Falls is being performed between Monday 20 to Saturday 25 of September as the MAST Mayflower Studios. To find out more about the performance and book tickets, you can access the MAST page here.