“I’m easily spooked” admits actor, Charlene Boyd
2:22 A Ghost Story premiered in London’s West End in August 2021. The show was nominated for three Laurence Olivier Awards and won Best New Play at the 2022 WhatsOnStage Awards.
Since that first production at the Noël Coward Theatre, the play has been performed at four different West End venues and began a UK tour on 1st September. This includes a stint at King’s Theatre, Glasgow from 21st to 25th November.
Charlene Boyd, who took over the role of Lauren when the show hit the road, tells me more about the critically acclaimed production.
“The entire play is set in one place… in an older home that has been renovated by Jenny and Sam. They have an 11-month-old baby, Phoebe. Jenny says that she has been hearing a ghost and it turns up at exactly 2.2am each night. She hears footsteps and sounds and she wants the dinner party guests to stay to prove that the ghost is real.”
Those dinner party guests are the couple’s friends, Lauren and Ben (played by Joe Absolom).
“In the process of the evening, layers come off in terms of relationships… there’s a lot of wine and a lot of opinions as to how each individual sits with ghosts. It’s quite a thrilling ride. It’s pretty terrifying at points… I’m easily spooked!”
Surprising, then, that she’s so enthusiastic about the role.
“It’s a really brilliant piece of writing,” she explains. “There’s a lot of funny moments in it, it’s balanced really well. The details are brilliant and the twists and turns are brilliant. It’s a great, great play that Danny Robins has written. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever read in terms of playwriting.”
Which is presumably why it has been so successful. As Charlene points out: “Shows that aren’t good, don’t last.”
The whole premise of the play revolves around one question: are ghosts real? This is a question for the audience as well as the cast.
“For an audience to watch it, it’s edge-of-your-seat thrilling. It’s paranormal activity but it’s so clever. Fear is such a huge emotion… but people find the most terrifying things funny so they’re living on the edge.”
The roles of Jenny and Sam are played by Louisa Lytton and Nathaniel Curtis but the cast has, in fact, changed a number of times. Those to have played the part of Jenny include Cheryl (Cole) and Lilly Allen. Lauren has been played by Sophia Bush, Ben by Matt Willis, and Sam by Harry Potter actor, Tom Felton.
“The buzz around it is incredible,” Charlene continues. “I was immediately excited when the email came in from my agent to audition for it. I always go with my gut instinct and I was like, yes, I know this one!”
One of the reasons for her obvious excitement was the prospect of putting her own stamp on the character of Lauren.
“I’ve been doing my own prep – as I do with every job that I go into – but really looking at the details. Okay, Lauren’s from California, she’s a psychotherapist in London, but what’s her journey, where has she been, how did she meet Sam? It’s really exciting to know that I can very much make the role mine… knowing I could start from scratch and create my own Lauren. She’s a really complex role and that’s what’s really exciting about the part.”
Charlene’s public portrayal of Lauren began in Bath on 1st September but I’m keen to find out where her own acting journey began. Did she always want to take to the stage?
“I was brought up in Cumbernauld. When I was at school I wanted to be a dentist. We didn’t really go to the theatre. We went to pantomime at Christmas, and when I was 12 or 13 there was an ad in the paper that said there was an amateur dramatics group in Glasgow and they were opening up their doors.”
Encouraged by her mum, Charlene went along.
“I think it was the first time I got the bus into Glasgow on my own. I auditioned and it was magical, I just loved it. I got in and we performed Oklahoma at the King’s Theatre. I was obsessed with things like how the theatre smelled, the seats, the stage door, the camaraderie, the community, I just loved it, I absolutely loved it.”
In her last year of school, she was advised by her teacher to ‘crash higher drama’ and from that moment on, knew she wanted to act.
“I went to the RCS in Glasgow, which was a brilliant opportunity for me. It was getting into Glasgow that really made it possible for me. It’s a brilliant school, it’s known worldwide for its acting course, and it’s just gone from there.”
Whilst studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Charlene was also lucky enough to be selected for an exchange trip to Los Angeles, one of only two students chosen to attend Cal Arts (California Institute of the Arts).
“It was really cool that I got to go there.”
Upon returning from LA, and still in her second year at drama school, Charlene auditioned for a part as a WPC in the Scottish detective series, Taggart.
“It was my first ever TV role. It was literally three lines but then… whenever they needed a WPC in later episodes, they would ask me to do it, so I ended up building up this character. It was really great. I’ll always remember that first day. My family watched Taggart when we were younger and meeting John Michie, Blythe Duff, Colin McCredie… it was brilliant.”
Since then, Charlene has appeared in countless TV series including River City, The Trial of Christine Keeler, Scot Squad and The Control Room.
“I genuinely feel very grateful for the roles I’ve had. I get really good, complex, meaty roles and one thing I do feel very strongly about is that every time I do a job, the next one is always more challenging. That can be because of the size of the role, what the role requires, the tour, who I’m working with…”
She continues: “The thing about acting is you learn so much on the job and depending on who you’re working with, you pick up different skills, different things that work for you… and so I do feel really lucky because I’ve had a lot of really difficult roles, a lot of darker, complex roles, that have required a lot of work. Every role that I get is really challenging.”
Those roles have included Isa in Men Should Weep for the National Theatre of Scotland, and Lady Macbeth in what she describes as a ‘wonderful role to play’. She also played the lead role in The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, a role that began at the Edinburgh Fringe and then toured the USA for 12 weeks.
So does she prefer the stage to the small screen?
“I really enjoy both, I don’t have a preference. I’ve played bigger roles in theatre than I have on TV so I’d love a shot at a bigger, more complex role on TV to see what that’s like. I feel ready for that now. I would say that’s maybe the next big challenge that I’d love to take.”
In the meantime, 2:22 A Ghost Story dominates her life until early December as she continues the UK tour, taking in thirteen different theatres before the cast changes once again.
“I absolutely love being on tour!” she declares. “I love going to loads of different theatres, meeting loads of new faces. But ultimately, the best part of that is when you come home. I’ve already been telling my friends and family to book tickets. I’ve got so many people coming to see it, I’m really looking forward to Glasgow. Glasgow’s my home town, it’s where I studied. And I’ve not been on the King’s stage since that am-dram all those years ago!”
She’s also excited to work with the cast and crew, despite not knowing any of them prior to this production.
“This is the first time I’ve gone into a theatre job and I don’t know anybody! In a theatre show, you become so close, you spend hours a day together literally sweating on each other and playing someone’s partner. You really get to know each other and we’ll go on this huge tour together. So I’m really looking forward to getting to know these people. It’s exciting to go in fresh.”
And after this ghostly production, what comes next for Charlene Boyd?
“I’m writing a play at the minute… the first ever play that I’ve written. We’re hopeful that it will be on this time next year but I’m not actually allowed to talk about it!”
How did I know she was going to say that?
“It’s a new adventure for me,” she concludes, “which is really exciting and terrifying in equal measure.”
A bit like 2:22 A Ghost Story, then?
For tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/shows/2-22-a-ghost-story/kings-theatre-glasgow/