cold hill

The House on Cold Hill

The Alexandra Theatre


Peter James reputation as a crime and thriller writer is well known, but with his book The House On Cold Hill he delves into the supernatural medium with a story inspired by his own ghostly experiences.

The play adapted by Shaun McKenna, delivers nothing really new in the way of the haunted house genre. A remote gothic country mansion is purchased by a young family headed by Ollie and Caro who are totally unaware of the properties mysterious, deadly past.

Grumpy teenage daughter Jade can’t hide her angst at being separated from her friends who are now a whole fifteen miles away. So she bemoans, via Facetime, to them on her mobile, while mum and dad skip around, dance and canoodle at every opportunity to her embarrassment.

Ollie and Caro however are literally on the verge of breaking into song and dance, or is it just the acting, with the prospect of owning their new forever home.

The only modern addition to the ghostly goings on is the inclusion of home wi-fi and an Alexa with unique connections that well exceed the range of the router.

Joe McFadden just couldn’t resist a few Strictly dance moves as Dad Ollie, a former ad man now starting up his own web design business. Rita Simons is his wife Caro, a solicitor who now seems to be a stay-at-home mum and is in the proud possession of a haunted ironing board and iron. The latter suddenly bursts into flames at one point; I just hope she kept the receipt.


Completing the family is Persephone Swales-Dawson as the teenage daughter Jade, forever on her trusty mobile phone. I am not too sure if teenagers still use the acronym OMG anymore, but Jade is keeping the tradition alive.

Jade also seems to have a bit of a nasty streak as she blackmails dad’s odd friend Chris, played by Charlie Clements. Chris has been employed to help get the wi-fi set up, but Jade spots he has a naughty book that Chris does not want his employer to discover he’s reading. Jade promises not to tell if he lets her have it to read and so he agrees.

Eventually though we find out it is not a copy of Fifty Shades but a book on the science of hunting ghosts. We discover eventually that Chris is a bit of a SGHG (a supernatural ghost hunting geek) with a personal interest in Cold Hill (OMG).

Finally there’s Leon Stewart as local builder Phil with his own unexplained investigations, there being severe damp in the basement. Phil makes a lot of ghostly sounds himself, otherwise known as `sharp intakes of breath’, as he contemplates the prospect of over quoting for the repair of the rising damp.

With Tricia Deighton as the Medium Cleaner, and in that title I am referring to her spirit world ability not her height or daily rate and P’adraig Lynch as Fortinbras, the local vicar who seems to know a thing or two about exorcism, the scary scene is set.   

The play is directed by Ian Talbot and features a dramatic set designed by Michael Holt which is packed with some high tech screens to deliver the ghostly apparitions. Adding to the effects are some cool lighting moves with the augmented atmosphere of chilling sound effects. The scariest of those being the noisy pipes in the central heating system, something that I am sure Phil the builder will be quoting on in due course when he’s tackled the damp.  

The House On Cold Hill is a lot of fun and played at times that way and whilst it’s entertaining to watch you won’t be hiding behind your programme or choking on your Fruit Pastilles in shock. (Other brands are available)

There is a twist at the end and by that I mean an unexpected ending rather than Joe McFadden dancing again. We never get to find out who provides the family’s internet service but it’s quite an advanced package.

With Alexa now being at the centre of this haunted home, it presents a new possibility and a warning for the perils of home automation, as her connection well exceeds that of normal wi fi and takes you as far as the spirit world.

Scarily perhaps, it’s not just Google which is listening . . .  To 11-05-19

Jeff Grant


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