Monday, 22 November 2010

The Haunting, Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne, Review

The Haunting
Devonshire Park Theatre

22-27 November 2010
Performance seen 22 November


Lord Gray : Paul Nicholas
David Filde : Sean Maguire
Mary : Hannah Steele

Understudies: Matthew Medhurst & Hannah Warren-Green

The Haunting is without a shadow of a doubt the best ghost story I have ever seen at the Devonshire Park Theatre.

OK, let's be honest, its also the only ghost story I've ever seen at the theatre but it is excellent none the less.

This was opening night and the production was clearly already possessed by the paranormal as there was a short delay in curtain up while some spooks in the sound system were exorcised.

However to avoid overcrowding in the foyer the bar opened early for those who wanted to experience spirits before the show. (yes that pun went down about as well when I used it at the venue!)

In the event what looked initially as a potentially long delay turned out to be a mere 5 minutes after the scheduled start time.
Paul Nicholas haunting in Eastbourne and supporting GOSH
But if any of this large, mainly elderly, Eastbourne audience thought they were in for a nice peaceful time watching a little play about a spectre they soon found themselves very much mistaken.

A friend of ours who was at the show with his wife said that before the show he was actually very tired, "But I soon woke up!" he continued.

Now I was absolutely determined that nothing was going to make me jump during this show no matter how good it was. Yes, I failed - twice. So much for strong willpower. The rest of this audience were no different with gasps often  followed by quiet guilty laughter occurring throughout.

I'm not going to mention Charles Dickens storyline at all for The Haunting because quite simply it will ruin it for those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of seeing it. Those of you in the South East who can't make Eastbourne this week may wish to note it is on at the Assembly Hall in Tunbridge Wells in the week commencing 4 April 2011.

The Dickensian language is delivered quite beautifully by 2 of our most well known actors and they both have monumental scripts to recite, which they did so without faltering.

Paul Nicholas will always be primarily remembered for the classic TV Series Just Good Friends but he has also appeared in multiple movies. He is also a true stalwart of the theatre and has played in venues all over the country in productions such as 42nd Street and Jekyll and Hyde. Somewhat unusually this was his first visit to the DPT but he is certainly no stranger to Eastbourne having appeared in both the aforementioned musicals at the nearby Congress Theatre. 

Sean Maguire is known primarily for his roles in Grange Hill in which he played "Tegs" Ratcliffe and for his year in Eastenders playing Aiden Brosnan. He then pursued his love of singing for a few years releasing 3 albums before returning to stage and screen. He is also one of a minority of actors who has proved he can be successful in the USA as well as in the UK.

The Haunting marks Hannah Steele's professional stage debut. Whilst her role is nowhere near as demanding as Paul and Sean's in terms of both time on stage and dialogue what she has to do she does brilliantly and really looks the part.

Sean Maguire haunting in Eastbourne and supporting GOSHLets go back to the shocks and surprises. Be ready for plenty of these. The set, which is the study of an ancient manor house, is quite magnificent complete with cobwebs (or maybe The DPT just decided not to pay the cleaners this week) and there is many a clever effect hidden in the set. Despite those critters in the sound system before the start there were no indication of any problems with sound during the performance and it appeared all the mechanical special effects worked perfectly

It was good to see that in addition to making the audience jump on many occasions that the cast aren't immune to shocking themselves either. Having just had one jumpy moment Sean Maguire caught a prop with his leg. When it fell to the floor you could see his genuine surprise with a "what the hell was that?" look at the object. There were a couple of similar occurrences.

I can't fault the Haunting really and judging from audience praise both in the interval and at the end neither could anybody else.

It's a fascinating story, it's superbly acted, it has twists, turns and yes lots of jumpy moments.

The only odd thing was when I left the theatre and wondered why there aren't more spooky mysteries like this? After all the theatre is the perfect setting for a good fright. Murder mysteries we have loads of but good ghost stories are scarce.

Thank goodness we've got this one!

Finally, once again our Devonshire Park Theatre stars have kindly supported Great Ormond Street Childrens' Hospital by signing specially printed official playing cards.

Please keep an eye on and to see the mounted end products which will be auctioned on eBay to raise funds for the famous childrens' hospital .

If you are a fan you will have the opportunity to bid for a unique piece of memorabilia and to raise money for a very worthy cause at the same time.

Many thanks again to Paul and Sean for doing this with no notice and to the Friends Of The DPT who have allowed me to do these valuable signings during meet-the-cast events.
The Haunting 5/5
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