The House On Cold Hill

From the novel by Peter James, adapted by Shaun McKenna

Original music by Nick Lloyd Webber

Produced by Peter James and Joshua Andrews

Opera House, Manchester

14 May 2019 - 18 May 2019; 2hrs

Look out Joe, he's behind you. Don't think he's a new Strictly partner... All pics: Helen Maybanks

The old run-down converted monastery on the Sussex Downs has been empty for 40 or more years but husband Ollie (Joe McFadden, of Strictly and Holby City), his wife Caro (Rita Simons, of EastEnders) and daughter Jade (Persephone Swales-Dawson, aka villainess Nico Blake in Hollyoaks) have moved the 20 or so miles from Brighton to make it their forever home. And so it comes to pass, but not in a good way.

Even before things start going bump in the night you might think the fact that the locals give them odd looks whenever the history of the house is mentioned would have warned them about problems. Their estate agent certainly didn’t, but that’s estate agents for you. Never enter into property purchase without thoroughly checking out the history of the masonry and mortar seems to be message here.

Adapted from Peter James’ 2015 novel, the story is apparently based on the author’s own experiences in a haunted house. As stage thrillers go (not usually very thrilling), after a slow and over-long first act the tension does ratchet up a notch or three.

Ollie is a former ad agency chap setting up his own web design business. Daughter Jade is using Facetime to talk to her best friend and would rather be back in Brighton. Wife Caro is the practical one when things go wrong - and my, do they go wrong...

It’s a decent cast: McFadden in particular is consistently on the ball throughout, and the others do their best with pretty much stock characters and a script that meanders for too long.

The ghostly happenings have been interwoven with some modern technology – you always knew having Alexa around was more than a little spooky - and there are a few sudden shocks, though nothing quite so startling as the big hit in The Woman In Black, thank goodness (same designer though, Michael Holt).

The ending is fairly unexpected and satisfyingly macabre.

#JoeMcFadden #PeterJames #RitaSimons


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