Home / Central / The House on Cold Hill – Theatre Royal, Nottingham

The House on Cold Hill – Theatre Royal, Nottingham

Writer: Shaun McKenna from the book by Peter James

Director: Ian Talbot

Reviewer: James Garrington

Moving house is said to be one of the most stressful things that you can do. Some moves, though, can be more stressful than others, as Ollie Harcourt and his family find out. They have bought the house of their dreams – and from being town-dwellers they have moved to the country. It’s an old run-down Georgian mansion in a small village, and it’s been empty for the past forty years. Then strange things start to happen, and some of the locals seem to know more about what’s happening than the Harcourts have been told – could it be they are not the only residents of their dream house?

The ghost story genre has been around for a very long time, but The House on Cold Hill gives things a distinctly modern twist. It’s set firmly in the present day – Ollie is a web designer, and daughter Jade loves using Facetime to talk to her best friend Phoebe. The house has modern technology – laptops, WiFi and an Alexa – and writer Peter James has cleverly woven these into the plot. With taut direction from Ian Talbot, the production neatly takes you exactly where it wants you to go – and even if you think you’ve worked it all out before the end, there’s a twist waiting for you.

There’s a strong and believable cast too. Joe McFadden plays Ollie, the former advertising agent who is setting up his own web design business. He’s excited by the opportunities the house provides, and McFadden does a good job as he moves from wilful disbelief through reluctant acceptance that there may be something going on, to full-on panic at the thought his family may be in danger. Rita Simons is his wife Caro, more practical when things go wrong and more willing to believe what she’s experienced. There’s good chemistry between the two and they work well together, each wanting to protect the other from worry. Daughter Jade is played by Persephone Swales-Dawson – Jade is sixteen and would rather be back in Brighton with her friends, so spends all of her time on her phone. More susceptible and willing to believe than her parents, Swales-Dawson gives a fine performance as the excitable and scared teenager.

There are strong performances too from the village locals. Charlie Clements is the village technology geek brought in to help Ollie with his business, and Leon Stewart is builder Phil, surprised at some of the things he’s finding as he tries to rectify problems with the house. Padraig Lynch is the local vicar who turns up to sell raffle tickets but ends up getting more involved than he was expecting, while Tricia Deighton gives a good performance as Annie, the craft shop owner with a secret.

Moving house is said to be one of the most stressful things that you can do. Some moves, though, can be more stressful than others, as Ollie Harcourt and his family find out. They have bought the house of their dreams – and from being town-dwellers they have moved to the country. It’s an old run-down Georgian mansion in a small village, and it’s been empty for the past forty years. Then strange things start to happen, and some of the locals seem to know more about what’s happening than the Harcourts have been told – could it be they are not the only residents of their dream house?

The ghost story genre has been around for a very long time, but The House on Cold Hillgives things a distinctly modern twist. It’s set firmly in the present day – Ollie is a web designer, and daughter Jade loves using Facetime to talk to her best friend Phoebe. The house has modern technology – laptops, WiFi and an Alexa – and writer Peter James has cleverly woven these into the plot. With taut direction from Ian Talbot, the production neatly takes you exactly where it wants you to go – and even if you think you’ve worked it all out before the end, there’s a twist waiting for you.

There’s a strong and believable cast too. Joe McFadden plays Ollie, the former advertising agent who is setting up his own web design business. He’s excited by the opportunities the house provides, and McFadden does a good job as he moves from wilful disbelief through reluctant acceptance that there may be something going on, to full-on panic at the thought his family may be in danger. Rita Simons is his wife Caro, more practical when things go wrong and more willing to believe what she’s experienced. There’s good chemistry between the two and they work well together, each wanting to protect the other from worry. Daughter Jade is played by Persephone Swales-Dawson – Jade is sixteen and would rather be back in Brighton with her friends, so spends all of her time on her phone. More susceptible and willing to believe than her parents, Swales-Dawson gives a fine performance as the excitable and scared teenager.

There are strong performances too from the village locals. Charlie Clements is the village technology geek brought in to help Ollie with his business, and Leon Stewart is builder Phil, surprised at some of the things he’s finding as he tries to rectify problems with the house. Padraig Lynch is the local vicar who turns up to sell raffle tickets but ends up getting more involved than he was expecting, while Tricia Deighton gives a good performance as Annie, the craft shop owner with a secret.

The House on Cold Hill is a spooky thriller with some shocks along the way containing some abrupt and sometimes scary moments. Well written and competently performed, it has some good twists and turns and whether or not you believe in the supernatural, it provides food for thought about how modern technology has changed our lives too.

is a spooky thriller with some shocks along the way containing some abrupt and sometimes scary moments. Well written and competently performed, it has some good twists and turns and whether or not you believe in the supernatural, it provides food for thought about how modern technology has changed our lives too.

Runs Until 2 February 2019  | Image: Helen Maybanks

Writer: Shaun McKenna from the book by Peter James Director: Ian Talbot Reviewer: James Garrington Moving house is said to be one of the most stressful things that you can do. Some moves, though, can be more stressful than others, as Ollie Harcourt and his family find out. They have bought the house of their dreams – and from being town-dwellers they have moved to the country. It’s an old run-down Georgian mansion in a small village, and it’s been empty for the past forty years. Then strange things start to happen, and some of the locals seem to know…

Review Overview

The Reviews Hub Score

Genuinely spooky thriller

About The Reviews Hub - Central

The Reviews Hub - Central
The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

10 comments

  1. Avatar

    Returned from watching the play last night at the Theatre Royal Brighton.

    Our seats were in the 2nd Circle row B5&6. At least 30% of the stage was not visible.
    Seats became more uncomfortable as the play progressed due to the fact that we had to lean forwards to try and see the play. However, the production of this play was so amateurish , that we left during the interval , which could not have come soon enough.
    The three main characters shouted throughout and appeared to have lost the ability to project their voices without shouting.
    A dire performance which was continually interjected by constant references to the Amazon Alexa device which was inserted into the play and appeared to have a major role. This cheap attempt at product placement was completely unnecessary. although Amazon must have been delighted.
    A complete waste money for expensive tickets, a poor play and restricted view seats, which was not made obvious during booking.
    Very disappointed.

  2. Avatar
    Colin Stanford

    Watched it in The Theatre Royal Norwich. Very poor. Dialogue was SO rushed! It was as if they were in a race to see who could say their lines the quickest. It finished earlier than most productions not surprisingly!!
    Built no atmosphere at all due to the ‘rush’. I love the theatre & almost alway enjoy it, as I am looking for it to be a success. Very disappointed, although I thought Alexa was by far the best actress!!
    Only rescued the evening with a few wines after!!!

  3. Avatar
    Christine Bell

    This play was hard work, very boring. First HOUR was all about fixing the house up, installing an alarm! damp proofing the cellar!!!! and a few references that there may be a ghost.
    FIRST time I have ever left in the interval, could not stand another hour of tediousness!!!!

  4. Avatar

    Just returned from performance at Hull New Theatre and wish had read reviews before we went. Predictable plot and outcome. Some of the worst overacting I have ever witnessed (Joe McFadden, guilty as charged) and lack-lustre, apathy (Rita Simmons, that’s you). Like watching a long but rubbish advert for Alexa.

  5. Avatar

    I have to say, I went to see this in Westcliff on Sea April fools day 2019 and honestly though somebody was playing an awful prank on me. The Theatre was old and the seats incredibly uncomfortable, and perhaps that took the focus away from the play. However, it was boring beyond belief, with over-acting thrown in for good measure. I contemplated leaving at half time and so nearly did. However I managed to stay awake for the shorter 2nd half of the play. Couldn’t wait to leave, and some of the comments from the people walking down the stairs on their way to the exit, cannot be repeated on here. Waste of time and money.

  6. Avatar

    Dreadful waste of time and money, went to see this in Malvern and was very disappointed. Poorly cast in my opinion, overacting was the norm and the plot ridiculous, I was wondering if this was supposed to be a comedy at one point. Generally the quality of regional productions and touring plays that I have seen has been excellent, this fell well short of what could b described as a good night at the theatre.

  7. Avatar

    Sadly, I agree with all the points above with regard to the play. We saw it last night at the Palace Theatre, Westcliff-on-sea and I had been looking forward to it for several weeks; it wasn’t cheap. It had a ‘pantomimish’ feel about it, with over-projection of voices and over-exaggerated gestures; I got tired of the shouting. There really wasn’t much depth to the story and, aside from the inclusion of modern technology, the basic idea has already been done to death. What a disappointment, and we didn’t even get to see Ms Simmons, just her understudy – but perhaps this was for the best…

  8. Avatar

    My wife & I, saw this production at Richmond Theatre last night. Frankly I have felt more spooked by the Morecombe & Wise Xmas special.
    Really couldn’t warm to any of the characters as it was delivered at breakneck speed & poorly acted.
    The use of Amazons Alexa was baffling as it gave the whole thing a slightly comic atmosphere.
    Was glad when it was over, saw more scary spirits in the pub afterward.

    Don’t waste your money !

  9. Avatar

    Last night’s visit to the theatre to watch A House on Cold Hill was shorter than usual, owing to suddenly remembering somewhere else I had to be at the half-time interval, that being literally anywhere other than the auditorium in which the second half of the production was due to unfold.

    There is very little to say about the first half of this play that hasn’t already been said, besides the fact that its writers must have a very low opinion of audiences. I say this because of the extent to which every cliched point was made at least three times, often far more. After an hour of rote learning, nobody can have been in any doubt that the House on Cold Hill was home to the Grey Lady. So named because she was grey. And a lady. With hair that was grey. And a dress, because she was a lady.

    If undecided about whether to buy tickets to this play, I can only urge you not to do so. By half time it was enough that this production had received my money without them receiving any more of my time as well.

  10. Avatar

    I agree entirely with the above reviews.I went with my friend to see the play last night in Milton Keynes.we were very disappointed with the production we were really looking forward to seeing it as both are fans of Peter James books.the overacting was laughable at one point I asked my friend if the play was a comedy! It was a very amateurish production .my friend had paid for my ticket as a birthday present so felt guilty for booking it! Will stick to musicals in future.

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