It is no surprise that Jack Studio has already won Off West End awards for ‘Most Welcoming Theatre’ and ‘Best Theatre Bar’. On walking into the pub area, members of the press were greeted with bowls of chips, prosecco and wine. But regardless of the additional touches used for the purpose of impressing, the attitude of all staff was incredibly positive and welcoming and the pub itself felt warm and traditional. It made the entire theatre experience very enjoyable (if enjoyable can be a word used to explain the terror The Haunting instilled upon its audience).
The Haunting is a horror adapted from Charles Dickens’ Ghost Stories by Hugh Janes and is Jack Studio’s official Christmas production for 2015. Adaptations of literature are at the risk of being too literary in content with a lack of focus on developing action. Hugh Janes’ adaptation of the stories, however, was in fact quite excellent and cleverly put together in contrast to other recent adaptations.
The Haunting led character David Filde to Lord Gray’s manor house in order to price up some books of Lord Gray’s late father to relieve him of his debts. During his stay, David experiences the paranormal. Unknown voices, unexplainable movements and distorted noises scare Filde and Gray into finding an explanation to these strange occurrences. Using a book found in Gray’s house, the two manage to free the spirit from its restless state. But all does not end there. The final scene of the play adds a touch of mystery and makes the audience question whether what they had just experienced was instead a depiction of the future to come.
The play itself was very good but did not feel entirely original, with a structure that was very similar to The Woman in Black. For example, the play had an explicit cast of two male characters and one hidden female playing the role of Mary the ghost. The play was also set in a similar period and in a similar area of marshlands. Despite these similarities it still managed to feel like a refreshing and new piece of theatre. And the good thing is, if you liked the stage version of The Woman in Black then you will definitely enjoy The Haunting. Nothing had been left out of the budget: actors, set, sound, lighting and costume alike were all given the upmost attention to detail.
The acting was particularly good, with mainly two actors (Robert Dubin and Jamie Laird) keeping the audience engaged throughout. There was a slight drop in both atmosphere and excitement in the middle of the play that left one feeling a little bored but this did not last for long with the terror of Mary’s spirit making a strong and physical reappearance. What was good about Mary the ghost, in contrast to the female role in The Woman in Black, was how active she was in the play. Rather than merely being a relatively still object of fear, she was a very real and necessary character whose body language, facial expressions, and movements were all particularly important in making the production the scary success that it is.
The production was successful in its purpose and theme. Too often, thrillers tend not to thrill or excite the audience. Here, tricks of the light, clever sound and ominous stage effects all worked toward making the audience feel uneasy and frightened.
Although nothing stood out in particular, it was a very strong piece of theatre that needs to fine tune the middle section of the play and to perhaps find some originality. It is a play that I could watch again and I would recommend travelling to the South East of London to see it.
With tickets at only £14 for a production that is worth far more than that, I would not hesitate at buying a ticket.