A Play By One of the World’s Most Famous Ghost Hunters Is Set to Creep Out Melbourne

Image showing the cast of 2:22 A Ghost Story

If ghosts aren’t real, then why do we see them? For the broadcaster, author, scriptwriter, and playwright Danny Robins, that question has always haunted him. Now, he’s bringing his expose on the psychology of ghosts to Melbourne for the first time in a limited run of his hit play, 2:22 – A Ghost Story. 

“I see ghost stories as detective stories really,” Robins told The Latch via Zoom.

“They are there to be solved, either by finding out who the ghost is or by finding out what caused it in terms of environmental factors or psychological factors. I love those puzzles”.

Robins is the man you’ve either heard of or are yet to become obsessed with. He’s the brains and the host behind chart-topping podcasts Haunted, The Battersea Poltergeist, The Witch Farm, and Uncanny. He’s also written for the BBC’s Young Dracula and has his first book, Into the Uncanny forthcoming this September.

Danny Robins, writer of the play 2:22 - a Ghost Story on in Melbourne in July
Image: Danny Robins / Supplied

In 2021, Danny turned his hand to playwrighting, something not unfamiliar to him given the scripted-reenactment format of some of his podcasts. 2:22 – A Ghost Story debuted on London’s West End, quickly becoming a cult phenomenon. It also ran in Los Angeles with previous casts, including Lily Allen, Sophia Bush, Stephanie Beatriz, and Tom Felton. Adaptations in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Mexico, and Singapore are currently in the works as the world clamours for more Robins’ mystery.

Robins told us that he’s drawn inspiration from the stage version of the horror hit The Woman in Black. 2:22 – A Ghost Story is described as “an adrenaline-filled night where secrets emerge, and ghosts may or may not appear”. It’s both laugh-out-loud funny and seriously scary.

The play centres on Jenny and Sam, a young couple who have just moved into their new house. Jenny believes their new home is haunted, but Sam is an ardent sceptic. During a dinner party with old friend Lauren and new partner Ben, they agree to stay up until 2.22am to finally find out what exactly it is that Jenny has seen. It’s a tension-ramping countdown to answer the ultimate question: Is there life after death?

“I’m fascinated by that moment in someone’s life where they go from one sense of reality to another,” said Robins’ “That’s what the play is about to a great degree really”.

“I think you’ll see many of the themes that you see in the podcasts crop up in the play — the battle between scepticism and belief.

“At the heart of all of the stuff I do, really, is that you’ve got somebody who’s a scientist or a sceptic of some kind saying, ‘This can’t happen. It’s not possible’, and somebody else saying, ‘Well, it happened to me’.”

The play opens on 25 July and will run for four weeks until 20 August at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Robins’ told us that he feels passionately that the play “should exist in local forms around the world” and, to that end, the original locale of Walthamstow in London has been updated to Footscray in Melbourne, with all the suitable references, slang, and mannerisms included.

Australian actor and supermodel Gemma Ward will be taking on the role of ‘Jenny’ and stage and screen star Remy Hii will play ‘Sam’. They are joined by Daniel MacPherson as ‘Ben’ and Ruby Rose as ‘Lauren’. Ward you may recognise from Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Hii has recently appeared in the Aussie Netflix comedy Wellmania and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Far From Home. 

“Going to Australia, I felt like I wanted people to come and see themselves on stage,” Robins’ said about localising the play. “The more real it is, for me, the more frightening it is.”

Although frightening is the name of the game, Robins isn’t really interested in pure shock horror for the sake of it. Much of his work sits in the uncomfortable but far more interesting middle ground where audiences are given the freedom to make up their own minds.

“I find that middle ground quite delicious. I think it’s this no man’s land between what we know of our universe and what we have yet to learn.

“The mystery for me is the fun. The play is a locked-room mystery — characters trapped together, trying to solve this greatest of all mysteries about whether ghosts exist”.

Image showing the cast of 2:22 A Ghost Story Australina cast for their Melbourne run
Image: Supplied

Questions about the afterlife, which Robins admits can never really be answered satisfactorily, are however more than just time-killing intrigue. Being able to create a space where both positions — believer and sceptic — are welcome is significant in the 21st century.

“We live in incredibly unbalanced times. We live in an age where you’re pretty much encouraged to take polarised positions and then just argue and hate each other.

“More and more, I’ve been consciously trying to sort of create a world where it’s okay to be opposites and agree to disagree and it’s okay to change your mind”.

“It’s become almost kind of a political point, really, that I want to kind of try and shift how we, as a society talk to each other”.

Robins tells us that he’s never had a supernatural encounter himself, something he believes is important for his own impartiality. He did however undergo a life-changing period of anxiety in his early 20s that he says sparked his obsession with death — having felt as though you’re about to succumb to it will do that.

“I think that gave me an insight into the kind of people I talk to now for my podcasts,” he said

“People who say, ‘It’s so hard to explain’. Or ‘You had to be there’. Or ‘I know what I saw, but I can’t convey it to you.'”

As to whether he personally is on team believer or team sceptic — a question asked of the audience at the end of each Uncanny episode — Robins is characteristically uncertain.

“When I made my first show, Haunted, I was definitely much more team sceptic, but I think I’ve gone on a journey that’s led me towards team believer. At the same time, I’m not yet ready to drink the Kool-Aid.

“The closest I could come would be saying that I cannot explain the stories I hear. I can’t explain them away sceptically, and I can’t explain them as ghosts.

“Answers are always escaping us, you know. The answers are always just disappearing over the horizon or sneaking around the corner, hiding in the shadows — but they are no less exciting to chase”.

2:22 – A Ghost Story Melbourne Details

Location: Her Majesty’s Theatre

Show Dates: 28 July – 20 August.

Previews run from 25 July to opening night on 28 July.

Tickets are currently on sale and selling fast here.

Related: What Really Happened the Night of the Luna Park Ghost Train Fire?

Related: 7 Eerie Abandoned Towns In NSW That Will Have You Calling for the Ghostbusters

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