DramaFestive 15/16North WestReview

The Haunting of Hill House – Playhouse, Liverpool

Writer: Anthony Neilson
Director: Melly Still
Reviewer: Abbie Rippon


Based on the novel of the same name by American author Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House tells the story of a supernatural, social and psychological experiment that takes place in the mystical Hill House. Many of the house’s previous residents have died in cruel and mysterious ways and Dr. Malone and three carefully chosen guests decide to spend a few days at the house and experience its atmosphere for themselves.

Anthony Neilson has cleverly adapted this rather challenging novel for the stage. The writing has to include a massive amount of exposition, necessary for the plot and characters to develop truthfully – he does so successfully without making the dialogue tiresome. The writing is strong and poses many challenging scenes for the special effects team – one imagines the writer typing out the stage directions and thinking ‘have fun with that, effects team’.

Despite the challenges, the special effects are one of the most remarkable elements of the show. The set, lighting, and projections harnessed the dark and mysterious power of Hill House creating ghostly children to haunt the corridors and some incredibly effective use of perspective set design to make the audience feel at times like they are watching camera angles from a film rather than live drama acted out before their eyes.

By its nature, the production has a steady, drawing pace to it, designed to put the audience on edge as this is contrasted with moments of shock which are typical to the horror genre. This made the audience very aware of the 75 minutes in the first half. The acting, on the whole, is of a high quality. Emily Bevan as the gradually unhinged Eleanor plays her rôle superbly allowing her gradual demise to sneak up on the audience inch by inch so that you can never pinpoint the moment when we realise just how unbalanced the character is. Angela Clerin,as Celia Markway, feels a little unsteady in her rôle as the clairvoyant; however, this in a way, suits the precarious nature of the character.

All in all, this is an enjoyable evening for horror fans and has the capability to set an audience on edge. The supposedly haunted Playhouse Theatre in Liverpool is the ideal venue for such a dark, gloomy and eerie production. Not for the easily scared – or maybe it is…

Runs until 16January 2016 | Image: Gary Calton

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