Review comments on this production
"For a ghost story to work we must all be persuaded to suspend our disbelief. After a few nervous laughs, the packed audience clearly surrendered its detachment and became fully involved in the play, drawn in not least by the playing of the two leads... As the nights draw in and winter approaches, it’s time to encounter the other side of reality. The Haunting will give you plenty of spooky thrills." Nick Le Mesurier, Leamington Courier
"Perfect for halloween, this modern blend of five Charles Dickens' ghost stories really has audiences on the edge of their seats...The Haunting proved to be an irrestible project for veteran director Keith Railton who called on the resources of a hugely creative team, not least in creating the truly splendid baronial manor set then getting a composer to add dramatic music and a lighting engineer to produce enough stunning special effects to chill the blood." Barbara Goulden, Elementarywhatson.com
'The Haunting' is a spine-chilling play, based on several original ghost stories by Charles Dickens.
In an ancient, crumbling mansion, sheltering from the howling winds that tear across the surrounding desolate moorland, two men stumble across a dark and terrifying secret that will change both of their lives.
When a young book dealer, David Filde, is employed by a former associate of his uncle to catalogue a private library, he finds an incredible array of rare and antiquated books. But as a series of strange and unexplained events conspires to keep Filde from his work, he realises that if he is to convince his sceptical employer that the mysterious phenomena he is experiencing are real, they must journey together to the very edge of terror, and beyond...
This production contains strobe lighting effects and loud noises.
This play may be deemed scary for some audience members, and not scary for others. It's down to individual interpretation. It may not be suitable for those with a nervous disposition or who cannot handle sudden shocks. We would suggest that it is not suitable for young children.
In line with our EDI policy, we undertake an EDI impact assessment of all our artistic programming. ‘The Haunting’ has no specific diversity message within its narrative. The play can be cast with complete neutrality on race/ethnicity. Its themes call for gender specificity in certain roles.
The Haunting, at The Criterion Theatre, Coventry, is a classic ghost story, replete with strange noises, mysterious clues and a legacy of dark deeds that refuses to settle.
The plot is simple enough and is based on a number of stories by Charles Dickens. Young David Filde (Ted Mcgowan) arrives at the remote and chilly home of Lord Gray (Peter Gillam) to assess the value of his late father’s library. Lord Gray is deeply in debt, due it seems to his father’s excesses. The library is packed full of rare and valuable books, but it also contains something else. A strange atmosphere pervades the place. Soon inexplicable noises are heard at night, books fall off their shelves, and a voice is heard, pleading for help. Then there is a terrible scream.
Naturally, the young man is terrified, but his host appears coldly indifferent, both to the noises and to his guest’s wellbeing. At first, he claims to be a rationalist, and notions of ghostly ramblings are the stuff of folklore and gossip. But then, as the interruptions become more frequent, and David Filde begins to dig deeper into the mystery, he too seems to become convinced that there is something terrible in the house, something that cannot be explained by means of reason.
But all is not as it seems. The twist at the end, which I won’t reveal, comes as a satisfying surprise, and ties all the loose ends of the story together. Meanwhile we are treated to a host of clever effects and an atmosphere which, no matter how familiar the tropes of the ghost story may be, still manages to stir the imagination and cause the pulse to beat a little faster.
Much of the credit must go to the stage management, those too often unsung heroes of the theatre, who behind the scenes make things happen, and without whose skill no play would be a success. The effects are genuinely creepy, and the music, composed and recorded by Mary Mohan, is dark and original. The set is a fine recreation of damp and dismal Victorian gloom, and the lighting is eerie.
Special mention must go, too, to the ghost – yes, there is one – convincingly played by Louisa Ruscoe. Her tattered costume and ghastly make up are just right for the play.
For a ghost story to work we must all be persuaded to suspend our disbelief. After a few nervous laughs, the packed audience clearly surrendered its detachment and became fully involved in the play, drawn in not least by the playing of the two leads. Ted Mcgowan and Peter Gillam work well together, the one portrayed with frenetic energy, the other an almost statuesque detachment, two opposites who are gradually drawn together as the story unfolds and a terrible secret is revealed.
Charles Dickens was fascinated by the supernatural and was a master of atmosphere. Hugh Janes’s script samples the master’s skill to create a classic in itself. As the nights draw in and winter approaches, it’s time to encounter the other side of reality. The Haunting will give you plenty of spooky thrills.
Halloween haunting keeps theatregoers in suspense
For various reasons, it’s been a while since ECHO’s reviewer has had the pleasure of seeing a play at Earlsdon’s Criterion Theatre. The theatre's website preview of Hugh Janes’ play The Haunting whetted the appetite, and a captivating production on a dark, clocks-back-an-hour Sunday aftemoon just before Halloween didn't disappoint.
Charles Dickens is considered a master of the ghost story, and this tale, blended from several of his best and adapted for the stage, bottled the essence of his craft. Ghost stories are by their nature somewhat formulaic, but director Keith Railton and his company blended the ingredients superbly to scare, absorb and intrigue the audience by turns.
Sound and lighting effects combined from the start to set the atmosphere as young bookseller David Filde (the assured Ted McGowan) dozes in a chair. The room is dark. Outside, a howling gale rages in a storm-dark sky. Filde is soon joined by the aloof and tetchy Lord Gray (an excellent character study from Peter Gillam). He’s clearly nursing some dark family secrets but anxious all the same that the sale of his late father's fine library should clear the estate’s considerable debts.
Soon, old books begin to do what old books in ghost stories do, falling from the shelves at random moments. Doors bang for no reason. Noises above (tiles falling from the roof?) and a mysterious voice wailing ‘help me’ repeatedly notch up the tension. Arch rationalist Lord Gray is sceptical. But when, on the stroke of the interval, a ghostly young woman in a tattered bridal dress appears in an armchair (excellent work from wardrobe and make-up), backlit - of course - by a timely flash of lightning, we are left wondering quite how his lordship will explain that away.
He doesn't, and slowly a tale of doomed young love across the rigid divide of social class looms out of the darkness of the Gray family's fog-shrouded past. Did murder at the hands of Lord Gray's father, perhaps through imprisonment and starvation in a priest-hole hidden behind those troublesome bookshelves, put an end to it?
It appears so. However at the denouement, exactly what happened ‘back then‘ remains as mysteriously shrouded in uncertainty as many of the unexplained events that mark Filde’s stay. A dream? A premonition? Dickens, playwright Hugh Janes and the Criterion team combined skilfully to keep us in suspense up to and beyond the play's end. False trails abound. A menacing and ghostly white tree framed in the library window preys on our minds. Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment may be a clue or may not. The cynic and the credulous, hand in hand in ignorance.? Whether siding with Gray or Filde, ours was a satisfied and suitably entertained ignorance as we departed into a night of shadows.