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

Eerie tale of the supernatural

Picture of Former boyfriend Andy (Dexter Whitehead) with the less than convincing psychic Ken (Ian Eaton) 

Haunted: Former boyfriend Andy (Dexter Whitehead) with the less than convincing psychic Ken (Ian Eaton)

Haunting Julia

The Grange Players

Grange Players, Walsall


HAS this supernatural thriller by Alan Ayckbourn scared away some of the company’s most loyal customers?

How else could you explain why only a third of the seats were occupied on opening night – the smallest audience I have ever seen in the theatre for amateur productions.

Whatever the reason for the small turnout, the absentees missed a real treat as the story of prodigal musical genius Julia Lukin’s apparent suicide is probed 12 years after the tragedy.Picture of still grieving father Joe played by David Stone

Her heartbroken father Joe arranges a meeting with the girl’s former boyfriend, Andy Rollinson, and somewhat dodgy psychic, Ken Chase, in the attic room where she used to live and work on her music, now lovingly transformed into The Julia Lukin Centre.

Self-made Yorkshire businessman Joe, powerfully played by David Stone, produces tapes which seem to have picked up the ghostly voice of Julia, but can he convince the other two men that they are genuine.

Still grieving father Joe played by David Stone

Dexter Whitehead is totally convincing as the ex-boyfriend, now married with a family but with a little more knowledge of  events surrounding Julia’s demise than, surprisingly, ever came out at the inquest.

Even dimming lights, the sound of a piano being played, and a sudden screeching noise that makes the audience jump, seems to leave him unmoved, and the doubtful psychic qualities of Mr Chase, former janitor in the building, add to the feeling that Joe could be manufacturing the eerie moments.

Ian Eaton, who once played the lead for this company in Jekyll & Hyde, completes an outstanding cast as Chase, who, it transpires, knew Julia from the time he worked in the building.

All three men handle the dialogue superbly so that the audience are carried along unsure whether Julia – dubbed by the media as ‘Little Miss Mozart because of the quality of music she wrote - really is haunting the premises.

The entrance hall to the Julia Lukin Centre, for instance, is warm while her adjoining room is cold.

Produced and directed with great attention to detail by Martin Groves, the play has a particularly chilling climax in which the splendid set, designed by Groves and splendidly constructed by a team of seven, plays a huge part with the appearance of a huge blood stain and numerous items crashing to the ground or collapsing in a heap.

This is the only play Ayckbourn has written for an all-male cast…..though the ‘presence’ of one woman is certainly a major feature.

The Grange Players is the first amateur company in the West Midlands to receive the rights to perform the drama, and they have made an excellent job of it. To 24-05-14

Paul Marston


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