When Darkness Falls review – The ghosts of Guernsey leave you curled up in your seat | Theater
A A big storm is brewing in front of a dilapidated office on the island of Guernsey, taking with it stories of ghosts and ghouls. Written by James Milton and Paul Morrissey, with localized stories of murmurs in tunnels and faces in forests, When Darkness Falls cleverly blends history and folklore. After a shaky start, it’s a show that gets smarter and more spooky as the night goes on.
Working for the Guernsey Historical Society, John (Will Barton) stayed late to record a vlog with a writer and paranormal researcher (Alex Phelps). Thinking back to the ghost stories that haunt the ancient island, the writer tells John five stories, testing his lack of belief with tales of witches, apparitions, and unresolved revenge.
This is how the first half of the show unfolds, the guest recounting these hauntings. Phelps is smooth, intense, scary, but the stories are always a step away, as if they were just memorized in a textbook. When Barton’s character adds small pieces to the story, sometimes going into a character, he feels at odds with the world they’ve created. There is no heat.
But that surprisingly boring start is followed by a brilliantly spooky second half, as gradually elements of the ghost stories begin to creep into the room.
Things fall from their perches. The lights go out. John begins to hear things. Once the balance changes, the fear feels close enough to breathe down your neck. Now the pair have our attention completely, Barton’s crumpled nerves complementing Phelps’ strained confidence. Suddenly the tension is overwhelming. The stories became tangible, and we curled up every time the lights went down.
Behind the theatrical tricks and tripped fuses, the script also gets louder, the story folds in on itself, and the loose ends begin to make sense. While it’s the shocks and screams that make us jump, it’s obvious the scariest thing about this haunted island isn’t the threat of a grisly presence, but the potential of what a human can do. to another.