But that’s what happens when you star in the tense thriller When Darkness Falls, which has a pretty high scare factor. The work is part of a new batch of works that leave audiences awestruck and intrigued in equal measure.
But Tony is hopeful that it offers much more than a few scary moments.
“What’s great and I was really hoping this would happen,” he said, “is that it gets people talking on the way home in the car: what is a ghost? Do you believe in ghosts?
“At first glance, you might think that a play about two people in a room, one a history teacher and the other an expert on paranormal phenomena, sounds a bit dry. But it definitely isn’t.
“You basically have someone who believes in the supernatural and someone who doesn’t, and the audience travels through my character’s reaction to everything that’s said and experienced.”
Tony plays a skeptical history teacher on the island of Guernsey who is recording a podcast with a paranormal expert on the island’s folklore. As the expert tells five chilling stories, strange things begin to happen, causing the teacher to question his own beliefs.
“It’s a really intriguing piece,” said Tony, who has been a part of some of London’s biggest West End productions, from The Mousetrap to Les Miserables.
“It doesn’t have any big moving parts, but there’s something really nice about being able to deliver good old-fashioned storytelling.
“It’s a true listening story. Yes, there are quite a few scares and some very clever illusions, but it’s just the two of us in a set all the time hitting the ball back and forth.”
Tony admits that being part of two hands is very demanding.
“I quite like at this point in my life to have this kind of challenge,” he said. “It makes the little gray cells work, that’s for sure. There’s no rest, you can’t relax and think ‘I have nothing to say in three or four pages’, it’s constant.
“But I am lucky to work with Thomas Dennis, who is great and we get along very well. We’re both there for each other and I know he sounds very ‘actor’ but he gives you a chance to do your trade.”
Tony read the script three times before even auditioning for the role.
“I wanted to make sure it was up to me to do the role justice,” he said. “And I was intrigued from the beginning. It makes you think about many things, about loss and how things from the past stay with us and how ghosts affect our lives.
“It’s a scary night at the theater, but I also hope it gets people talking about what a ghost is.”
It seems strange to some that people actually want to be scared as part of a night out, but Tony understands why.
“I think a part of us likes to be afraid,” he said. “There will always be some people who wouldn’t sit down knowing they’re going to freak out, but it’s like riding a roller coaster. You get this rush of adrenaline from being scared and then the relief of knowing you’re safe again. We like to be scared and that is definitely part of this production.
“Those moments where people are scared are great, but there are also those moments where you can hear a pin drop and that’s when, as an actor, you can think ‘they’re with us.’ That’s happening a lot with this play. You can feel that the audience is drawn in and listens carefully to everything that is said. It’s a great piece.”
The five tales that the ghost hunter tells are based on Guernsey folklore, ranging from tales of witches to the terrible days of the Nazi occupation of the island.
“All the different parts of the country have their own folklore,” Tony said. “Ours are based in the Channel Islands, but wherever we go with this show, the public will identify. Those stories came out of something, often there is some kind of documentary evidence, though many of these stories are embellished by telling and retelling.
“But ghosts are part of our culture. It doesn’t matter if you believe in them or not, but I think we’re all a little bit intrigued; there is a fascination about whether there is life after death. For people who have experienced loss, it’s such a big thing that you have to hope that the person you lost is still with you in some way.”
When Darkness Falls and the West End crush 2:22 A Ghost Story has made the supernatural sexy when it comes to theater.
“Maybe some of it is due to escapism,” Tony said. “Because of all the challenges we face, maybe we just want a place to escape to for a while.”
Tony is really looking forward to returning to Manchester.
“I spent a year there many moons ago when Les Miserables first opened outside of London,” he recalled. “I played Thénardier, the innkeeper at the Palace. I’ll always remember opening night because the set broke down and producer Cameron Mackintosh had to come onstage and tell the celebrity audience that the barricades had been broken. Les Dawson was in the audience and he yelled ‘how does it end?’
“I also had a very nice Christmas season at the Library Theater in Ghost of Scrooge, so I’m really looking forward to coming back to town.”
When Darkness Falls, The Lowry, Salford Quays, Monday 27 February to Saturday 4 March. Details at www.thelowry.com