NODA Show report – The haunting of Hill House

Dr Montague (Adam Patman) – a professor much interested in the supernatural, is keen to uncover the secrets of Hill House, an abandoned Victorian mansion, reputed to be “a place of evil containing ill will”.

 

The remote location is avoided by all who know of its awful reputation and it has long remained empty apart from daily visits by a complaining caretaker, Mrs Dudley (Emma Dobbs), whose curt reception makes it clear that guests should not expect much in the way of service so that they will not be disappointed

Dr Montague, an investigator of supernatural phenomena, has invited three other people to join him - Luke Sanderson (Dan Zampoli), Theodora (Sophie Honeybun) and Eleanor Vance (Colleen Brennan), who are unacquainted but have their own particular reasons for accepting the invitation. This gathering begins informally but during the night unexplained banging sounds and voices are heard. Miss Vance appears to be the person most affected by these happenings.

A few days later Mrs Montague (Amber Sinclair) and her friend Arthur Parker (Norman Parish) arrive at Hill House, also being interested in the supernatural happenings, but their method of investigation is based on accounts provided directly from conversational experiences with departed spirits. Prof Montague is very much against this practice and is of the opinion that evil emanates from the building not from the people who have been in it. The play culminates with one of the persons present being involved in horrendous circumstances.

The cast worked well as a team making their contributions with confidence and quickly getting into character. Lines were clearly delivered and projected well. The costumes were appropriate and I thought the contrasting styles of dress between Theodora and Eleanor was very helpful in defining their characters. The well designed and constructed set could be viewed by the audience on entering the auditorium.

This production was described as “A pre- Hallowe’en fright-fest”, but from the lack of reactions from the audience around me, it was nothing like that. The story is taken from a 1959 gothic horror novel by American author, Shirley Jackson, and is considered one of the best literary ghost stories published during the 20th century; it has been made into two feature films, and is the basis of a Netflix series. The language of Shirley Jackson’s novel is much more creative than that used in the play adaptation and her writing is credited with being a source of inspiration to several writers. It appears that this stage adaptation was not the best medium for portraying this story.

Peter Breach October 2019

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