Five spine-tingling ghost stories are woven into the action on one stormy night in When Darkness Falls, premiering this month at the Park Theatre. All are grounded in folklore from the island of Guernsey, where the play is set and where its co-writer and director Paul Morrissey grew up.
Does he believe in ghosts? That may be the first question that springs to many people’s minds, but it’s not the one that interests Paul most. As he explained during the post-show Q&A:
“I’ve always said that this play is not a ghost story. Well, it is obviously a ghost story. But traditional ghost stories are about whether ghosts exist or not. ‘Do you believe in ghosts?’ is normally the tagline that goes with that. That’s not what we really wanted.
“We wanted: IF ghosts exist, what are they? And I found that slightly more interesting. You know, are they Scooby-Doo ghost that run around with sheets on their heads or Casper? Or are they memories actually? Are they traumatic events that won’t leave you? Are they things that stay with you and haunt you? Night terrors and chills. That I thought was really interesting: what sort of trauma could bring out this and how would it manifest?”
We were joined for the discussion by the show’s two stars Will Barton and Alex Phelps. Will plays John Blondel, a teacher who runs the Guernsey Historical Society, who is visited in his ramshackle office one night by Alex’s young paranormal expert to record a vlog about local ghost stories.
During the discussion, we also covered: which of the stories told are true, how scary Guernsey can actually be, the 1987 hurricane that hit the island hard, why When Darkness Falls is the perfect Covid play (but still had such trouble making it to the stage), and what it feels like performing in front of a live audience again after nearly two years. The audience also shared some spooky stories that triggered a repressed memory in jumpy Alex!
When Darkness Falls is booking at London’s Park Theatre until 4 September 2021.