Touring – reviewed at New Victoria Theatre, Woking
Guest reviewer: Natalie Parsons
Ollie Harcourt and his family have bought the house of their dreams in the country, but it is not as idyllic as it sounds! This old mansion has a chequered history which explains why it has been empty for 40 years. It is not long before the Harcourt family begin to realise that they are not the only residents of the house.
The House on Cold Hill has the chill of the usual ghost story, such as Woman in Black but with a modern twist. It’s set in the present day in a house packed with modern technology – laptops, wifi and leading lady Alexa. The modern influence makes the show feel more relatable, however, at times the suspense and thrill becomes overshadowed by the comical intervention of the script.
Credit must go to the cast for portraying a modern professional family with Joe McFadden as Ollie, the former advertising man who’s now setting up his own web design company; Rita Simons as his wife Caro, the practical and factual Solicitor; and daughter Jade played by Persephone Swales-Dawson as the petulant teenager.
McFadden delivers a solid transition from joyful Ollie as his bubble is burst. From being exuberant about the move and the opportunities the house provides he is sent into disbelief as he accepts that there may be something sinister going on and the realisation that his family may be in terrible danger.
Simons, his wife Caro, is the more practical of the two when things go wrong and more willing to believe what she’s experienced. There is good chemistry between the cast and they all support each other well, to deliver a solid delivery of the plot. At times the suspense is broken by a change of direction to light heartedness so you aren’t sure if it is a thriller or light comedy.
I think fans of Peter James may be slightly disappointed with the adaptation of the book to stage and may find that the transition to stage has lost a certain amount of the thriller element. But The House on Cold Hill does create some spooky moments, with some good stage effects.
The play is performed well by the cast with special mention of Persephone Swales Dawsonperformance. The use of Alexa in this modern thriller was ingenious!
The staging, lighting, costumes and scenery were excellent. I enjoyed the play but can’t say I loved it.
photo credit: Helen Maybanks