Writer: Charles Dickens adapted by Hugh Janes
Director: Hugh Wooldridge
Reviewer: Jack Trott
The Public Reviews Rating:
With the intriguing title, Charles Dickens’ The Haunting, you would be forgiven for supposing this play would be a dark and moody social commentary of 19th century England based on a lesser known Dickens book. However in reality it is an adaptation from the ghost stories of Dickens and, unfortunately, there the only relationship with the great writer ends. Instead this is really a humorous parody of Victorian horror stories mixed with seance-trickery complete with tapping and knocking, phantom footsteps, doors opening and closing of their own accord, ghostly apparitions, objects flying off walls and the occasional, blood-curdling scream.
The play has all the elements needed to evoke Victorian theatre with an intriguing storyline, unravelling mysteries and evolving characters but not quite the impact nor depth to warrant the use of Dickens’ name although it is well directed, well acted and mostly, cleverly written.
There are only two characters to bring the narrative alive which is very masterly done so by James Roache as David, the fresh-faced, young man, newly employed by the esoteric and reserved Lord Grey played with all the right airs and subtlety by David Robb. Both actors convey just the right amount of mystery and innocence combined with a slight edge of underlying foreboding to evoke the tension needed to set the audience on edge and be intrigued as to where the dark secrets lie.
While being taken on a story of dark discoveries and revealed hidden family secrets, each new revelation is accompanied with all the necessary scraping, crashing glass, wind-blown curtains and cracks of thunder to make even the most relaxed of audience jump in their seat, then giggle with embarrassed relief. Each twist and turn in the story, serving to draw the audience in to settle and concentrate just enough to spring the next startling moment. The play does seem to trail off towards the end with some confusing twists and contradictions to the plot, not always making sense or necessary which detract from the rest of the show, perhaps this is deliberate to leave questions unanswered and puzzlement but this does not enhance an otherwise, well planned and executed Victorian ghost story.