The House on Cold Hill
Theatre Royal, Nottingham
Runs: 2h 20m: one interval: till 2 February
Suspenseful and highly entertaining.
The House on Cold Hill makes a refreshing night off for the reviewer. There are no elusive themes or symbols to be analysed, no enigmatic characters to be agonised over. Instead, what you see is what you get. And what you get is a thoroughly entertaining well-made play.
Adapted for the stage from the Peter James novel, it’s a rattlingly good contemporary ghost story with a satisfying twist at the end.
Ollie (Joe McFadden), an advertising man turned graphic designer, Caro (Rita Simons) solicitor, and bolshie sixteen-year-old daughter Jade (Persephone Swales-Dawson) are all stock characters of course. They’ve downsized from Brighton as you do, to a massive converted monastery on the Sussex Downs. Trouble is, it turns out to be horribly haunted.
Luckily, or unluckily, there are more stock characters on hand trying to help them out of the inevitable mayhem: cheery local builder Phil (Leon Stewart), Ollie’s pal, IT geek Chris (Charlie Clements) and nutty old hippy Annie from the village (Tricia Deighton).
The only non-stocker in the play is the vicar (Padraig Lynch). It’s not just his name, the Rev Fortinbras, but when he drops by to introduce himself and flog raffle tickets he’s clad in a black overcoat and a black trilby.
Besides a lot of worrying noises coming out of nowhere – a treat for your sound-effects buff – and bits and pieces of the stage-dressing jumping about, the play is fun for the way it combines the tried and trusted haunted house cliché with 21st-century social media wizardry – an Alexa given to Ollie for his birthday is almost an extra member of the family.
Naturally enough, the good folk of Cold Hill flout that cardinal rule of common sense which operates in this world but not in Thrillerdom. Whenever you’re with other people in a haunted house you should never, not ever, separate into two groups.
This one is ideal for an undemanding but suspenseful evening out.
Ollie: Joe McFadden
Caro: Rita Simons
Chris: Charlie Clements
Jade: Persephone Swales-Dawson
Annie: Tricia Deighton
Fortinbras: Pádraig Lynch
Phil: Leon Stewart
O’Hare: Simon Balcon
Novelist: Peter James
Stage Adaptor: Shaun McKenna
Director: Ian Talbot
Designer: Michael Holt
Lighting Designer: Jason Taylor
Sound Designer: Martin Hodgson