Wednesday, 24 April 2019

REVIEW: The House On Cold Hill at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

The premier of the latest thriller from best-selling author Peter James fails to ignite the imagination and leaves its cast empty handed.

Billed as a “spine-chilling thriller”, The House on Cold Hill stars Holby City and Strictly Come Dancing’s Joe McFadden and former EastEnder Rita Simons as the Ollie and Caro Harcourt whose move into the house of their dreams soon turns sour. 

The script, adapted by Shaun McKenna, feels more of a farce than horror territory and regularly throws away any drama in this MOR story. Relying on electronic assistant “Alexa” and references to FaceTime to give this the modern edge, it feels forced and contrived rather than helping create any horror or tension on stage.

Of the cast, Charlie Clements shines brightest as tech geek Chris who brings a genuine vulnerable physicality to the role while Persephone Swales-Dawson also performs strongly as stroppy teen Jade. 

The tone should have been set from the off with a flash back to the previous owner meeting a grisly end, but this was the most tense moment of the show with cheap laughs instead being preferred to creating genuine tension or horror.

The lowest point being the line “you should be on Strictly, mate” delivered to Joe McFadden in a gratuitous moment of dancing which did nothing to create a world of suspense or fear.

The rustic, dark set design felt wasted when the script was peppered with light gags and not enough development in the story. Too much time was given to setting up the haunted house and two-dimensional characters for no pay off. 

McFadden did an adequate job with a weak play and had good stage presence,
but Rita Simons appeared more at ease on television and her character never got going; so much so that by the end of the show the audience aren’t invested enough to care about her death.

Focusing too heavily on star casting and forgetting to balance this with strong writing, there’s also no inventiveness in the direction. The play relies heavily on the same cheap “scares” such as the noisy pipes or scary face in the mirror and fails to excite.

This is a formulaic, predictable play which doesn’t thrill or take you on a journey. The end result is boring – a show which has only seen the light of day due to the Peter James’ past successes.

Review by Andy Edmeads

Rating: ★

Seat: F4 | Price of Ticket: £36.90

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