THE HOUSE ON COLD HILL
by Peter James
11 - 15 June 2019
Reviewed by Rebecca Vines
It is a truth universally acknowledged that there are few things that can pack theatres nowadays. Musicals, Juke Box Tributes, and the dear old AmDrammers aside, bums on seats is a tricky thing: particularly in the provinces where theatres were built in grand style for several hundreds of behinds.
Happily, with Shaun McKenna’s adaptation of Peter James’ ‘The House on Cold Hill’, this is not a problem. No doubt lured by the spooky premise and/or soapy cast, there was a warm reception for this new kid on the stage-thriller block.
The basic ingredients are all pretty recognisable: spooky old house, isolated location, weird neighbours, historic rumours, sceptical father, vaguely persuadable mother, stroppy teenage daughter, wild-eyed priest, loopy local psychic. But similarities with previously trodden paths end there, and this is what makes this a real winner compared to many other somewhat damp-squib ghostly goings-on.
The script is first-rate, bang-up-to-the-minute modern and very relatable. It is also surprisingly funny. This takes the edge of the potential cheesiness which can be innate to the genre and ensures that we are as jumpy as the family who have just moved into this supernatural nightmare.
As Ollie and Caro Harcourt, TV favourites Joe McFadden and Rita Simons are really rather good (note the somewhat grudging tone of respect, there) which, to be honest, is another departure from the norm. It is pretty rare that TV actors can fill a stage adequately and convincingly, but these two are charming, strong, believable, and somehow make the whole plot utterly plausible. Charlie Clements is superb as their geeky techie/PA type guy Chris, and Persephone Swales-Dawson offers strong support as teenaged daughter Jade.
The House on Cold Hill is in a quite different class to the usual run-of-the-mill stage thrillers, and in terms of what it is and what it seeks to do, is pitch perfect. If you suspect that it’s your type of thing, then it probably is, and I would strongly recommend.
2pm Thursday and Saturday Matinees