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Interview: Elliot Cowan Talks 2:22 A GHOST STORY at Gielgud Theatre

Danny Robins' play brings spooky thrills to the West End

Interview: Elliot Cowan Talks 2:22 A GHOST STORY at Gielgud Theatre
Elliot Cowan

2:22 A Ghost Story is currently playing at the Gielgud Theatre in the West End, staring Giovanna Fletcher, Stephanie Beatriz, James Buckley and Elliot Cowan. Written by Danny Robins, this horror story clashes the worlds of scepticism and belief in the supernatural.

We chat to Elliot Cowan about the rehearsal process, what he's missed about being on stage, and why he got involved in the show.

This is the second run for 2:22 A Ghost Story. How did you find the rehearsal process for an established show?

We didn't have many days to rehearse, so we were right in the thick of it. Fitting into a production that's already been mounted and really successful, I've never come into a show like that before, but I really liked the approach.

There are some things in the show which are quite technical and fiddly, it's like a form of stagecraft, which you don't normally have. So, we started by introducing that from the outset, and allowed everything else to take shape after that.

We didn't have the time to break it down and discover it, but all that work's been done brilliantly by the people before us. And we were still able to bring ourselves to it in a fresh way.

The show is surrounded in secrecy. What can you tell us about your character, Sam?

Sam is quite an outspoken, front-footed and self-assured character. Behind that, there's always something rather more vulnerable, and there's a reason for someone being like that. He's quite a strident presence and maybe has been domineering or dominating the atmosphere with his wife - and has been for some time.

Interview: Elliot Cowan Talks 2:22 A GHOST STORY at Gielgud Theatre
Giovanna Fletcher and Elliot Cowan

He's been thrown off-centre by having a kid and being away for a few days and coming back to find his wife in a hell of a state. There's a whole new bunch of stories, and she's never believed in such things as ghosts in the past, and he's slightly thrown by all that.

The secrecy lies in where all this spooky stuff is coming from, and why is it happening. Is it even happening? Is she going mad? Has she been deprived of sleep by having to look after the baby on her own for several weeks? What's the deal?

I don't want to give any more away!

It's been written by Danny Robins, who also wrote The Battersea Poltergeist. Why do you think his storytelling is so perfect for the stage?

Danny has written a really fantastic script, and he really understands the genre well. These sorts of plays don't exist very often.

Danny just knows how to ramp up the tension, and the old traditional writing techniques are there. He's literally got a clock on the stage, in the title and ticking away throughout the whole show in an Alfred Hitchcock fashion. He understands that, and he's got such a back catalogue of what people believe in, and what people have claimed to have seen as ghosts, so I think his reference points by way of arguments to be debunked or to be maintained is really slick.

Every line has a purpose, and that's a sign of good playwright. It all drives towards this idea of do ghosts exist. Danny just knows how to crank that up in everyone's fear on stage in different ways, and I think that should generate the right fear for the audience as we go through.

What was it about 2:22 A Ghost Story that made you interested to take part?

Interview: Elliot Cowan Talks 2:22 A GHOST STORY at Gielgud Theatre
Elliot Cowan

I have this presiding memory of watching Ghost Train as an eight-year-old, and getting terrified by the show. 2:22 A Ghost Story just made me get a little bit nostalgic, and the reason why I may have ended up on the stage myself.

It's been two years since I've last been on the stage, and I thought it was a very well written play. I had heard about the show, and I jumped at the chance to be back on in something that I think can do well. Plus, I'd always heard, and wanted to meet and work with Matthew Dunster [the director].

I found the script funny as well - the whole dialogue is really entertaining.

How does it feel to be back on stage again?

I've had longer breaks off the stage in the past. I was away for five years once, which was very strange coming back from that. So, I'm used to the high stakes turnaround. But everything is two years ago now in our heads, like the last time I saw someone might have been two years ago, or the last time I did this was two years ago. It's just all gone by in a big blob of insular living, and so it's exciting to be back in a room with so many people.

I found going back to the theatre as an audience member very moving too. There is something special about being collectively gathered once more and putting your attention on a story in front of you. I'm really excited to be on the delivery side of that equation.

Why should people come and see 2:22 A Ghost Story?

I think if you see it once, then you'll want to come and see it twice.

There are things that you definitely won't get the first time - it's that dense of detail, and it's also full of scares. It's also full of laughs, it's actually very funny.

I think it will challenge for a while your sense of what you think you believe in. It gives great arguments for and against, and it really takes you in. You'll feel that thrill and fear that you only get when you're watching something live in a theatre.

It's also wonderful to be gathered in this very familiar environment and have the bejesus scared out of you for a few moments. And then I think you'll want to come back and go, how did they do it? What is the sense of that? Did I miss something? And that's why a lot of people have enjoyed it more than once.

2:22 A Ghost Story is on at the Gielgud Theatre until 12 February

Photo credits: Helen Murray

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