When Darkness Falls: Park Theatre

Alex Phelps in When Darkness Falls at Park Theatre

Alex Phelps as 'The Speaker' in When Darkness Falls at Park Theatre - Credit: Pamela Raith

This contemporary ghost story is set in the kind of office that HR people have nightmares about: tatty, cluttered but reassuringly cosy.

No clean desk policy here, instead lots of coffee and a big box of biscuits.

Paul Morrissey and James Milton's spine chiller is set in Guernsey where history teacher John Blondel is practicing his introduction for the Historical Society’s weekly vlog. Played by Will Barton (who excelled as the lead in The Park's The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson) fogeyish John carries a few extra pounds (all those biscuits) and is comfortable in tweed.

Will Barton and Alex Phelps in When Darkness Falls

Will Barton and Alex Phelps in When Darkness Falls - Credit: Pamela Raith

He may look absent minded, but his sharp mind relies on evidence and fact. The topic for the evening is local folklore: a respectable way of telling ghost stories without admitting it. The Speaker (we never learn his name) is a mysterious figure, who arrives late, soaking wet and freezing.

He tells John that he has five stories to relate: and what stories! Spanning four hundred years of the island’s history they are drenched in violence, blood, terror and torture; heretics, pirates and Nazis. There’s even a secret tunnel and a grog-shop!

Will Barton in When Darkness Falls at Park Theatre, Finsbury Park

Will Barton in When Darkness Falls at Park Theatre, Finsbury Park - Credit: Pamela Raith

To say that Alex Phelps had the audience in the palm of his hand would be an under-statement. His timing, modulation and simmering menace left us spellbound. Combined with the brilliant (but not over the top) lighting and sound design and startling special effects the ninety minutes flew past.

Like many ghost stories there is a twist: see if you can spot the clue that the Speaker is not quite what he seems. Barton and Phelps combine exceptionally well and Morrissey’s direction is light touch allowing them to reveal their inner ghouls.

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Perhaps it was Covid re-scheduling that gave it the August slot, but what a production this would be for Halloween or Christmas. Best though not to go alone. 4/5 stars.

Until September 30. https://www.whendarknessfalls.co.uk/

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