Gothic haunted house meets 21st century technology in this spooky adaption of Peter James’ best selling novel. Be careful what you ask Alexa for, because you never know who is listening!
Having just moved house myself, I am glad to say that the house I have moved to is not haunted (although I have not tried out a ghost box yet, or any of the other ghost hunting equipment we are introduced to in this production). I think if some of the weird goings-on that Ollie and his family experience as they move into Cold Hill House happened to me, I would be moving out pretty smartish!
In this production, the stage design by Michael Holt, perfectly introduces us to the strange Georgian mansion that our family has moved into.
Parents, Ollie and Caro are excited about their move from Brighton to the Country, having bought the house of their dreams, which they can barely afford.
Daughter Jade, technology-addicted and surgically attached to her smartphone, is disappointed to have moved away from her friends. As the play evolves, we learn the house has been empty for the past 40 years and we soon find out the reason why. It becomes apparent that our family might not be the only residents of their dream home!
Shaun McKenna’s stage adaption provides several sub-plots that could explain the weird goings on. Modern technology is being installed – laptops, WiFi and an Alexa – which are all being affected in this strange old house. But, is it locals, Chris, a self-confessed tech geek and his friend, Annie, behind all the goings-on? Or, is there something more sinister and paranormal afoot? We get explanations of what ghosts are and if they really exist from different perspectives during the play.
There’s a strong performance from Rita Simons as wife, Caro, who is willing to believe in the paranormal and what she is experiencing right from the start. Joe McFadden (of Casualty and Strictly fame) plays husband, Ollie, excited by the opportunities the house provides, but his ‘chirpy-chappie’ routine feels overdone at times. Persephone Swales-Dawson gives a convincing performance as their excitable and scared teenager daughter, Jade.
There are good performances too from the village locals. Charlie Clements is the village technology geek brought in to help Ollie with his business, and Leon Stewart is builder Phil, surprised at some of the things he’s finding as he tries to rectify problems with the house. Padraig Lynch is the local vicar who turns up to sell raffle tickets but ends up getting more involved than he was expecting, while Tricia Deighton gives a quality performance as Annie, the craft shop owner with a secret.
Despite some good performances, and the ghostly going-ons achieved through some good effects, this production seemed rushed and disjointed, and I felt it would have worked much better in a more intimate setting than the large stage of the Manchester Opera House. After reading the book I was rather disappointed. An episode of Most Haunted is a much better option if you’re looking to be frightened.★ ★