This show starts with a good old-fashioned ghost story. It’s a monologue, impeccably delivered by Reece Connolly, about a meeting with the supernatural that fits nicely into the genre’s venerable traditions. I could listen to this kind of quality story-telling all night. But although there is a similar scene later, where the past is dramatised for us, this project expands the theme of encounters in a different direction by showing experiments into the paranormal by new company The Knock Knock Club. The mix might make for a show more hotchpotch than haunting, but Last Orders is great entertainment.
The experimentation is literal – the company spent an after-hours night in the Old Red Lion pub with a ghost hunter, visiting the theatre we sit in (known for props mysteriously disappearing), the bar (where furniture has apparently moved of its own accord) and cellar (once used as a morgue). Their findings are presented in an appealing, open fashion with nice theatrical flair – never underestimate how effective candles and torches can be. Or billiard balls. Caroline Buckley and Christopher Keegan complete the trio and build up a great rapport with the audience.
As a thorough unbeliever, I wasn’t convinced by what unfolded but I made sure to take along a friend who’s more credulous, (sorry, open-minded). He’s even been to a séance. I giggled and he gasped, so there’s something to please everyone. More prosaically, the company could have spent more time explaining their Ghost Hunter’s equipment, would benefit from better presentation of photographs and could detail their evening more (including theories that debunk ghosts). The material is too good for just 70 minutes and the atmosphere too convivial to end so quickly.
If the docu-theatre angle is a little thin, a good night out is the bigger aim. The comedy here is super. From an effort to interview Rolo, the pub dog, to Connolly tackling his fear of the Ouija board – willing to sacrifice himself for fringe theatre, Knock Knock’s crew don’t take themselves too seriously and the result is a lot of laughs. Basing the show at a much-loved venue is sure to pique interest and the company is wise to give us a rundown of historical drinkers and lots of great stories. Of course, there are no ghosts, let alone the crowd of spectres expected. The brilliant line, “We’re going to need a bigger planchette”, proves unfounded. But it is a great line! Last Orders may be more funny than frightening, but it’s the best closing time in a pub I’ve ever been to.
Until 26 October 2019