When Darkness Falls
James Milton and Paul Morrissey
Paul Morrissey Ltd, Christopher Wheeler and Molly Morris with Jason Haigh-Ellery, Glynis Henderson Productions, Dawn Smalberg, Bev Ragovoy and Park Theatre
When Darkness Falls begins with a bump in the dark to introduce a night that sets out to be scary. It tells not just one ghost story but five of them, all linked to the island of Guernsey where it is set in the office of former newspaper editor and teacher John Blondel (Will Barton). He is there after hours to record a vlog for the local History Society and awaiting the arrival of a writer and researcher into the paranormal whom he is going to interview.
Outside there is a storm to add to the atmosphere. This is a going to be a night of thunder and electricity failures. When the unnamed visitor arrives, he is drenched but strangely isn’t interested in getting dry but just wants to get on with the recording. Blondel has already declared that where ghosts are concerned, he doesn’t believe in them but his visitor says he will change his opinion.
Do you think ghosts exist? Perhaps that affects how effective Paul Morrissey’s production is at making you frightened. Like most of us, I’ve had some experiences that seemed paranormal, the past does seem to leave something behind, but I’m not a real believer. However I do enjoy things that are scary.
As the lights flicker and fail and things fall off shelves or move about in Blondel’s untidy office, the atmosphere gets more unsettling; when a dim shape moves past a window or Blondel looks out through an open door, there is a frisson of fear as to what may be coming, but I can’t say that I was ever really frightened.
The visitor’s stories (the programme just calls him the Speaker) range from local legends of a black hound to witch burnings in the middle ages, privateers or pirates murdering a sailor, Nazi torturers during the World War Two occupation to a family lost in the 1987 great storm. Ghouls or not, these are real horror stories whose violence is described with cool clarity by Alex Phelp’s “Speaker”. Blondel sometimes joins in to act out some of the telling, which may seem unreal but finally makes sense as both men become part of the story.
When Darkness Falls didn’t make me jump out of my skin but, though not really a great fright night, it is good storytelling deftly presented.
Reviewer: Howard Loxton