Audiences may be used to Peter James’s best-selling detective mysteries, featuring popular creation, Roy Grace, being adapted for the stage – such as 2015’s Dead Simple, 2016’s The Perfect Murder followed by Not Dead Enough in 2017. However, the current touring adaptation of his 2015 supernatural thriller, The House on Cold Hill, packs a whole new punch as it plays to theatres around the country. This week, Richmond Theatre’s faithful are the lucky ones who are kept guessing right up until the end.
The trouble with reviewing such a show is that I can’t really tell you much about what’s going on for fear of spoiling the party. Nevertheless, what I can tell you is that ex-EastEnder, Rita Simons, and Strictly winner, Joe McFadden, star as married couple, Ollie and Caro, who move into an old 18th Century house with their 16-year-old daughter, Jade. At first all is well, until spooky goings on begin to surface.
As you might expect, the genius of Peter James leaves no stone unturned. In fact, the ultra-modern plotline is surprisingly satisfying in terms of knowing exactly what the audience appears to be thinking. Where many spine-chillers and horror stories often frustrate by the frequent amount of unrealistic reactions from the so-called ‘victims’, The House on Cold Hill covers every outcome and circumstance when you would naturally expect it to.
The presence of the Internet, video calling, mobile phones and Amazon’s Alexa all play a big part in the story which proves a familiar set-up with the watching audience members. It also debunks the old saying: “If only they had a mobile phone, none of this could ever happen!” The same universal responses that Alexa makes to all of us, day in – day out, actually go some way to adding a little humour to the evening’s proceedings.
Rita Simons and Joe McFadden are excellent in their naturalistic approach to the production, as are the remaining eight cast members. Combined with Shaun McKenna’s nerve-wracking adaptation, the onstage performances work extremely well. Ian Talbot’s direction makes the most of Michael Holt’s creepy monastic design and a handful of clever special effects.
This is a night out different from any other, and one that is highly recommended.
The House on Cold Hill plays at Richmond Theatre until this Saturday, 13th April before continuing on tour. More at www.peterjames.com/plays/house-on-cold-hill