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The Haunting

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
3 stars
Say what you like about hoary old ghost stories, but, as with the
runaway success of The Woman in Black, in terms of sensationalist fun
with smoke, mirrors and a bag of stage tricks as old as Methuselah
himself, they’re hard to knock. This one even has the literary cred of
being (very) loosely adapted by writer Hugh Janes from a quintet of
Charles Dickens short stories, with an extra added soupcon of incident
and colour culled from Dickens’ own real life interest in all things
supernatural to knit together a suitably shadowy and impeccably plummy
haunted house yarn.

Young book dealer David Filde is seconded to catalogue the country
house library of his uncle’s late colleague, whose money-centred son
has become the new Lord Gray. Other things are afoot beyond financial
transactions, alas, as Filde encounters Dostoyevsky-loving
poltergeists, disembodied female voices off and all manner of things
that go bump in the night.

This might well be unashamedly commercial hocus-pocus resembling some
1970s prime-time TV pot-boiler. Yet, as has been observed on these
pages before, material like this uses exactly the same theatrical
accoutrements that a host of younger and hipper theatre makers are
reclaiming as their own in a host of experience-based shows.

While essentially a vehicle for veteran sit-com and musical star Paul
Nicholas and ex East Ender Charlie Clements, Wooldridge’s talky
production sets up a debate of sorts between Nicholas’ cynical
rationalist and Clements’ wide-eyed seeker of spooks. There’s also a
hint of Victorian values courtesy of Filde’s dead sister, and a
double-bluff of an ending that suggests it might all have been in
Filde’s head all along.

The Herald, March 2nd 2011

ends

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