The House on Cold Hill is a new modern-day supernatural thriller from author Peter James which promises to send shivers down your spine and make you think twice about returning home to a dark, empty house after the show. The ghostly story follows the Harcourt family as they move into the house of their dreams on Cold Hill. But, their dream home, which had stood empty for 40 years quickly turns into the stuff of nightmares as the family begin to wonder if they are the only residents. Quays Life catches up with actors Charlie Clements and Persephone Swales-Dawson to find out more.
How would you sum up your characters in The House On Cold Hill?
Charlie: Chris works for Ollie [Joe McFadden] and is basically his go-to I.T. guy, who has this fascination with ghosts and has always been intrigued by the house Ollie and his family are moving into.
Persephone: Jade is Ollie and Caro’s daughter and she’s a teenager with a bit of attitude, which is fairly understandable because she’s been taken out of her comfort zone to move into the new house and she’s been taken away from her friends. So there is some attitude but underneath that this lovely personality shines through and you get to see her relationship with Mum and Dad, which is quite pure.
Are there ways in which you can relate to them?
Charlie: Not massively, no. [Laughs] I’m useless on a computer and I don’t believe in ghosts so not really. But it’s always exciting being part of something that people are going to be scared by and Peter James is a genius at that.
Persephone: When I first read the play I have to say it did bring back all the memories of being a moody teenager, having a big tantrum one minute then running to Mum the next. I think people in the audience will be able to relate to that too.
Why do you think audiences are drawn to theatrical spine-tinglers?
Persephone: Audiences love a good thriller because there’s that thing of solving a puzzle which keeps them riveted and there’s an inherent danger that keeps them on the edge of their seats. When something like that is going on in front of you, you might want to look away, but you’re so riveted you won’t be able to.
Charlie: It’s because it’s live. It makes people feel alive in a way – that prospect of not knowing what might happen or imagining what could happen. And in the theatre it’s a domino effect because if one person jumps that feeds round the auditorium and other people jump. That’s exciting to be a part of from an audience point of view but when you’re on stage and you hear it happening that’s exciting for an actor too.
Do you scare easily yourselves?
Charlie: I’m not great, to be honest with you, when it comes to scary thrillers. [Laughs] I’m glad I’m onstage doing it rather than watching it. As a kid I do remember watching Arachnophobia and I’d just built a Lego helicopter, which was sat on my windowsill in the bedroom. It had this little black circle on the front of it and that was pushing up against this really thin curtain so I was sat bolt upright in bed convinced it was a spider. I was petrified and had to shout for my parents.
Persephone: Oh my days, I scare so easily! My friends always have me round to watch scary films for comic value because I’m always watching from behind my hands. On stage I remember going to see The Woman In Black and being absolutely terrified.
What do you most enjoy about stage work versus TV?
Charlie: The live aspect of it gives you a different buzz to doing TV stuff. I enjoy both but I grew up doing more theatre so I feel probably more comfortable doing stage than doing telly, to be honest. I guess I just enjoy telling a story right then and there, and every night is different. You never know what sort of audience you’re going to get in and how they’ll react. It’s always changing and I enjoy that.
Persephone: When I first started acting it was stage that really got me hooked. I got a part in Hollyoaks from being spotted on stage and this is my first professional stage credit since then so I’m really excited about getting back to what started it all. You can’t beat the adrenaline of giving a live performance and the instant reaction of an audience. There’s also something about going out there and having the lights on you that’s really rewarding.
What are your career highlights across stage and screen?
Persephone: I got killed off twice on Hollyoaks. I died, came back to life and died again so that was quite exciting and my first big exit was my favourite thing I’ve done so far because it was so dramatic. Theatre-wise I used to act with The Lowry in Salford. We were a young company and wrote and produced a play ourselves. I loved that because it was so hands-on.
Charlie: I did a short war film called Coward with some friends of mine and a mate of mine, Dave Roddham, directed it. He put so much effort and work into it. It’s a short film on a feature film scale, shot on 35mm, and growing up the one thing I wanted to do was be in a war film – and now I have. We built the trench ourselves in a field in the middle of winter and I think that added to it because it kind of gave a sense of how it would have been for real. That’s a particular highlight. EastEnders obviously was too because if I hadn’t done that I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now. In terms of stage work, again myself and some friends put on some lunchtime theatre in London. It was called Lone Star and it was a 60-minute one-act play that we did above the Arts Theatre, and it was so much fun.
You’re touring with The House On Cold Hill. What’s the one thing you have to have in your dressing room?
Charlie: Probably just a mug and some teabags. I don’t really want for much but I do like having my own mug. And I guess now, since I’ve had the kids, a photo of my kids and my wife will be a nice thing to take with me.
Persephone: Slippers are a dressing room essential. Your feet get really tired doing a play so it’s nice to come off and slip into something comfortable. My favourite pair are worn out and are about to go into the bin so I need to buy some new ones.
Read our interview with Agatha Christie’s grandson, Mathew Prichard.