It has been seven years since the fire; seven years since a mother and son died in the attic; seven years since Edward locked the door.Seven years later, he still sits in the room below, tormented by their ghosts, refusing to accept they are gone.

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So begins And Then The Dark, Michael Lesslie’s psychological terror laced thriller which gets its world premiere at Ipswich’s New Wolsey tonight.

“That’s very much the set up for the ghost play part of it as it were; there was a terrible accident, the husband and father of the people missing in the accident and presumed dead is haunted by it, but haunted by a reason beyond [just] that. A sense of guilt starts to come to bear today as a plot gradually unravels that has a more present threat than something seven years ago.”

And that’s all you are getting re the plot.

Michael came up with idea after talking with CMP, with whom he adapted the acclaimed West End play Swimming With Sharks, about why nobody was staging old style thrillers like Ghost Train, Gaslight and Rope.

One of the things he enjoyed about Swimming With Sharks was that it was comic; if the audience were laughing he’d pull it off, it was a visceral, immediate reaction. When he started reading thrillers and horrors, he realised scaring people was the same thing.

“I got excited about what would it take to do something that was really traditional but felt contemporary, wouldn’t it be great to maximise the idea of the audience in the room, go ‘right, let’s stick the conventions, let’s make it a single room, let’s make the drama run in real time like a gradual choke hold on the audience’.”

All the best of the old plays have a contemporary anxiety at their heart, he says.

“I don’t want to give too much away but I thought the trust or distrust of a younger generation and a fear of increasing nihilism today, a lack of faith in the world beyond us when so much has been discovered and everything can be rationalised by science so what’s happened to faith? Can you still believe and as a result can you still believe in ghosts.

“Also on a human level.. you asked what scares the actors, one of the things that scares me the most is regret. I looked at all these old ghost plays and they’re all about regret. You look at thrillers and they’re all about the present something coming to get you so marrying the two of them and bringing regret to bear today for a character was a real challenge. I’m as excited and nervous as the cast, waiting to see if it works or not.”

In this day of high budget TV shows, films and computer games, is it harder to scare people face-to-face?

“I’m going to shoot myself in the foot here but I think the stage is the most effective way of doing it. I wouldn’t say it’s the most effective way of the scare lasting, film and novels can land a scare with you and truly haunt you for weeks. [But] being in the room with the thing terrifying you... that’s scary.”

So, what can audiences expect?

“I think they can expect a thrilling night out in the theatre, an entertaining ride that takes them on a journey but one also with real characters at its heart and that’s hopefully moving and gives them something to think about. First and foremost it’s meant to be a ball, you’re meant to have a good night out in a kind of scary thrilling way.”

And Then The Dark runs at Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre until March 2.

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