Spine-Tingling Fun – ‘Ghost Walk’: Review

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Visual Design Credit: Shankho Chaudhuri

★★★★

Spending an hour outside in the cold London air might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but Poltergeist Theatre’s new audio tour made it worthwhile. Chilly and charming, funny and heartachingly sad, Ghost Walk is the perfect festive treat for this time of year, when the boundaries between worlds seem at their thinnest. 

Telling the tale of ghost Mary’s attempts to gather a group of fellow spirits for a party, the audio tour and accompanying app leads you across the Broadgate area of London, encountering various spooks along the way. There are some teething troubles: the app takes an age to download (so the walk is less of a last-minute activity and more of a pre-prepared route march), is at first a little hard to navigate, and is prone to cut out at various moments. However, one or two ghosts in, you quickly get into the spirit of the tour, and the directions—when given by the ghosts rather than the app’s interface—become clearer. The highlight of the audio format is the sudden interjections by Mary, or other ghosts, as you walk between locations. These add to the sense of immersion and deepen our understanding of the characters, while providing a short sharp shock as they arrive into your ears unexpectedly.

The locations are also well-chosen, integrating modern office blocks, parks, walled gardens and monks to give a fantastic sense of the local history and fluidity of time. Although there may be some problems inherent to using a data-dependent app in central London, the tour is overall easy to follow and beautifully utilises its format for storytelling purposes.

No more is this found than in the way the story gently unfolds across the tour. Integrating comedy, tragedy and melancholy throughout, what seems to be an anecdotal collection of ghostly presences becomes a celebration of life and connection, whilst also acknowledging loss. The mystery of Mary, our central character and guide, opens like a flower in spring, engaging the audience throughout; this lead role is fantastically conveyed by Juliet Stevenson. The final scene (no spoilers) is as good as anything I’ve seen, representing the sense of loss and acceptance found within death, as well as the feeling that life goes on. 

The other spooks, too, have their moments. The cast is uniformly strong, though all shine individually, and their eventual connections with one another are extremely humorous. Not every audio tour can accomplish this; by assembling such a strong cast, Poltergeist have found the perfect balance between individual and collective storytelling. Particularly arresting for me were Cone Ghost, whose persona raises fascinating questions about identity after death, and the Monk, expertly played by Patterson Joseph, who adds religious questions into the proceedings. Indeed, the full range of ghosts allows writers Jack Bradfield, Rosa Garland and Will Spence to explore questions of life and death comedically and seriously, whilst constructing a puzzle for the audience to uncover across their walk. The requirements of audio—and particularly audio tours—necessitate strong acting and writing to keep the audience’s attention; Ghost Walk has both in spades.

Intended for a family audience, Ghost Walk expertly toes the line between spooky and comic, melancholic and uplifting, and consistently keeps the audience’s attention, whatever their age. Although the app might not be the easiest to use, and the weather might not be the best, there are few audio tours that accomplish their aims as well as Ghost Walk. It’s a spine-tingling tale filled with love, loss, and hope—a ghost story worthy of the masters of the genre themselves. 

Words by Issy Flower

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