Lily Allen conjures genuine scares in chilling, sharp West End debut 2:22: A Ghost Story

Lily Allen as Jenny in 2:22 A Ghost Story.

Lily Allen impresses in clever, tense ghost story 2:22: A Ghost Story.

When was the last time you screamed in a theatre? Pandemic aside, genuine scares are a rarity in the West End, one of several reasons why 2:22: A Ghost Story is so intriguing.

It’s billed a supernatural thriller, following a pair of middle-class new homeowners as they have an old friend and her new flame over for dinner. Lily Allen is Jenny, who for the past few nights has heard ominous footsteps coming from her baby’s room at the same time – 2:22, of course – while her husband Sam (Hadley Fraser) is away on a work trip. He’s a scientist and a sceptic; his old uni friend Lauren (Julia Chan) and her builder-turned-boyfriend Ben (EastEnders‘ Jake Wood) are roped in to pull an all-nighter and to get to the bottom of it all.

 Hadley Fraser, Lily Allen, Julia Chan, Jake Wood.

L-R Hadley Fraser, Lily Allen, Julia Chan, Jake Wood. (Supplied)

It’s fair to say at least half of the audience are here to see whether Lily Allen can pull off the part. It’s her first time acting in the West End, but you wouldn’t know it. She’s gripping as the over-tired but rightly-terrified Jenny, a boiling pot of nerves who, as the night progresses, reveals hidden depths. Hadley is suitably smug as her know-it-all husband, Chan makes the most of her thinly-drawn psychologist, while Wood is clearly having the time of his life hamming it up (in the best way) as an East End lad done good.

The true star is Danny Robbins’ script, which concerns itself with questions of gentrification, class, religion, family and love. Sure, some of these are only skimmed at a surface level, and some of the worthier lines of dialogue don’t quite land – but it puts a refreshing spin on the classic ghost story, cleverly playing with tropes and unafraid to employ the odd jump scare. You’ll laugh, you’ll scream, you’ll feel the hairs on the back of your neck rising uncomfortably as the tension builds masterfully. It won’t give you nightmares, but it’s a bloody good night out.

2:22: A Ghost Story, directed by Danny Robbins, is at the Noël Coward Theatre until 16 October.