Alan Wooding reviews The House on Cold Hill at Milton Keynes Theatre
It had been suggested that this stage adaption of author Peter James' spine-tingling novel is probably not for anyone of a nervous disposition or the faint-hearted.
The House on Cold Hill is billed as a real shocker and it certainly gripped the attention of the Milton Keynes Theatre audience on Tuesday night - but I found it far more comedic and a long way from being scary.
Starring Rita Simons (Roxy Mitchell in EastEnders) and Joe McFadden (Holby City's Dr Raf Di Lucca and winner of Strictly Come Dancing in 2017) as Caro and Ollie Harcourt respectively, together with daughter Jade (Hollyoaks’ Persephone Swales-Dawson), they get to experience some rather strange goings-on when they take up residence in their dream Georgian manor house in rural Sussex having moved just a few miles from their previous residence in Brighton.
It's certainly not a 'hide behind the sofa' or 'hands in front of your face' play as it offers plenty of lighter moments, teenager Jade usually being the one to a make us laugh.
There are some clever lighting flashes and sudden movements which director Ian Talbot has included, but having expected to hear screams and gasps from the audience, there were more mutterings and muffled guffaws.
The manor house set (designed by Michael Holt) is clearly haunted and there's plenty of ghostly goings-on. But while I had expected a few goose-bump moments as each family member experiences strange happenings, sadly it didn't give me a fright.
However the family were scared to tell one another of their experiences until the second act and that's when electronics geek Chris – played by Charlie Clements, EastEnders' Bradley Brannin – came into his own. He'd set up an Amazon Alexa and that ended up having a mind of its own. Meanwhile Apple's FaceTime also got mention as daughter Jade was always on her mobile phone to her school friend.
There was chemistry between Joe and Rita who carried the show while the introduction of the Reverend Fortinbras (Padraig Lynch) brought a laugh as he attempted to exorcise the 'Grey Lady' ghost. Then there was the Harcourt's batty part-time cleaner Annie (Tricia Deighton) who could hear voices, while the only other part was that of Phil the local builder (Leon Stewart) who was employed to sort the damp in the cellar.
I won't go into the plot or storyline - it's better if you don't know what to expect, although you can probably guess - but the one thing that I will guarantee is that you will be unplugging your Alexa well before you think of climbing the stairs and going to bed tonight.
* The touring production of The House on Cold Hill plays Milton Keynes Theatre until this Saturday (April 20) with nightly performance at 7.30pm. Tickets are available from the Box Office on 0844 871 7652 (booking fees apply) or online at www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes