If you love being in that special place between almost wetting yourself with laughter and almost wetting yourself with fear, Swans productions’ Follow Me is the night out for you.
Arriving at the venue already evokes spooky anticipation. The location of the evening's events is a huge house, a little too empty, a little too clinical. What on earth does this production have in store for us? After a few minutes of nervous buzzing on the intercom and knocking on the ornate door, the audience is greeted by Gwyn (Christopher Blackmore) the apprentice ghosthunter and health and safety chief. Interacting so directly with an audience always has its challenges but this production sees Blackmore immediately taking control of the scene. The audience feels reassured by the improvisation, entertained by the zany characterisation, and excited by the energy. These guys know what they’re doing.
The ghost hunt begins after a short introduction to the other characters, techy Cara (Milla Harding) and poster-boys of amateur ghosty nimrods Harriet (Alice Merivale) and Jimmy (Ciaran John). Stand-out performances come from Merivale and Blackmore as superb comedians and improvisers; their portrayals feel like very genuine characters one might encounter in the British ghost-hunting community whilst also performing beyond the rational.
Sam Dunstan’s direction is personal and pragmatic; an immersive promenade is difficult to pull off at the best of times but particularly tricky to navigate after the couple of years that we have had battling a global pandemic. Everyone is given jobs to do and feels listened to. So many activities are happening and yet the actors still maintain control. The hard-core extroverts can get involved as much as they want and anyone who wants to stand in the shadows still has lots of stories to spotlight on.
Ziggy Bibb’s script is wonderfully tongue-in-cheek. Flamboyant, fearful, and first-class fun for all as this spooky journey overcomes trials and tribulations with friendship, feelings, and fiendish spirits.
The sinister set dressing perfectly clashes with the 80s-inspired, overzealous ghostbuster costume (Jess Fox) which consists of what I can only imagine meant raiding a charity shop or the team's attics. Though it is minimal, as the action is so intimate and largely in the hands of the actors, sound design (Danny Romeo) adds a brilliantly believable element of horror to the mix.
The premise is so well executed that you find yourself questioning what is real. Is this creative youth centre steeped in as much ghoulish history as they say? Who knows? But it is definitely worth the adventure of finding out!
It runs until 26 February. More info here.
Review: Vivienne King Photo: Alberto Romano Photography