Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings


Andy Bingham as David Filde and Stuart Wishart as Lord Gray. Picture: Colin Hill

The Haunting

The Nonentities

 The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


It seems like tempting fate to say that winter is approaching, but even with the prospect of the last few days of summer hanging on into late September, its arrival is inevitable. So what better way to embrace the seasonal change and the autumn chills than to engage with the ghostly chills of a supernatural tale?

The Haunting skillfully pulls together five of Charles Dickens stories and they are blended with originality by writer Hugh Janes. It has everything you could need to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. An old broken down remote mansion, an out of town visitor arriving after a death, the locals who won’t stay in the place, rumours of noises and apparitions, unexplained events and central characters who are hiding their real agendas and secrets.

Unlike other plays, this is one that depends heavily on its effects as in several scenes it’s the sound and light that are the key performers. So firstly the sound design by Joseph Harper and the live cueing was exceptional. From the balance of the ghostly footsteps to distant moorland winds and blistering thunder claps - all against the onstage dialogue - to the quiet creaking of doors and key turns.

Without any of this the sonic atmosphere simply would not have been present. Then the lighting by David Wakeman. This is probably one of the most ambitious productions for its lighting alone. Subtle changes in isolating scary moments were crucial to the visual effects with scenes transitioning from moody candle light to day light and then the key lighted blackness and timing to reveal the horror of the scary moments were well thought out and executed.

Of course, none of this would be relevant without the stellar work of just two of The Nonentities most experienced performers, Andy Bingham and Stuart Wishart. The central action takes place in the dusty library of the manor and Bingham plays David Filde, the young assessor of antiquarian books, sent to the manor to value the book collection of the late Lord Gray.

Filde has an alternative motive for taking on the task and whilst beholden to his temporary employer, the new Lord Gray played by Wishart, he witnesses some ghostly happenings that build to a terrifying conclusion.

All of this was handled with great skill and the performance was equally matched by Wishart’s Gray. Gray is dubious of Filde's claims of local rumours and his unexplained events, dismissing them with clinical interrogation. As the events unveil, more of the family secrets are shared between the two men. Wishart’s performance was exceptional in his poise and was the perfect, logical antidote to the passionate delivery of Bingham, whose character moves from servitude to virtual hysteria in the final moments.

Tori Wakeman directs this epic work and the company must be commended as whole for the sheer amount of detail in every facet of the play both in the performances and the technical delivery.

Whilst all of that might be commendable it’s worth saying you won’t see any of that as the combined result lifts you at several moments out of the theatre and gives you a genuine sense of dread. You know they are just they playing and it’s an old ghost story . . . but did I mention the ghost, she made quite an impact, but I can’t put a name to her - or it? Maybe it was just a figment of my imagination . . . but that’s The Haunting for you. To 14-09-19

Jeff Grant


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