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When Darkness Falls: spooky stories for Halloween

With Halloween approaching, what could be better than a spooky story?

At the New Theatre this week, When Darkness Falls does better than that – it delivers a whole series of spooky stories, neatly wrapped together in a clever new play, set on a dark and stormy night (of course) on the island of Guernsey.

Inspired by true events in Channel Island history, we hear a series of disturbing tales – from witches burned at the stake and sightings of a devil dog, to horrors inflicted by the occupying Nazis of World War 2 and the devastating impact of the 1987 ‘great storm’.

The play, which opened its Cardiff run tonight (Tuesday 11 October) is based around a podcast being produced by a cordurory-and-cardigan-wearing history teacher, engagingly played by TV veteran (and former Chief Scout) Peter Duncan.

He has invited a young expert in the paranormal (Daniel Rainford) as a guest to discuss some of the island’s rich and disturbing folklore.

As the visitor recounts his horrifying stories, we discover unexpected links and the unsettling notion that history – even our own personal histories – may be open to new interpretation.

It’s a powerful production by James Milton and Paul Morrissey, delivering some genuinely scary moments.

The first half drags at times – too much tell and not enough show for my liking, but it certainly picks up after the interval, and when Duncan and Rainford are drawn into the action, rather than just telling the stories, the play is much better for it.

The excellent set design, sound and lighting all contribute hugely to the uneasy atmosphere. In fact, the teacher’s messy office with its faulty lighting and dark corners reminded me of the truly nightmarish Ghost Stories, which surely sets the ultimate standard for supernatural horror on stage.

This is a super scary play to prepare you for Halloween. You’ll be disturbed by the stories, unnerved by the atmosphere, and probably intrigued about the connection. Be prepared to jump out of your seat!

When Darkness Falls plays at the New Theatre until Saturday (October 15). You can book tickets from the box office on 0343 310 0041 or online here.

Review by Andy Weltch

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