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Silchester Players - The Haunting of Hill House

11th to 12th and 18th to 19th May 2007.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Prepare for a shock ...or two

Silchester Players: The Haunting of Hill House, at Silchester Village Hall, on Fridays, May 11 & 18 and Saturdays, May12 & 19

Silchester Players chose a spine-chilling theme for their latest production. The Haunting of Hill House, dramatised by F Andrew Leslie from a novel by Shirley Jackson, is an eerie tale about a deserted country house where supernatural forces exert strange powers over those who spend time there.

When Dr Montague, an expert in paranormal phenomena, brings together the psychically receptive Theodora, the young heir to the estate, Luke Sanderson, and Eleanor Vance, a young woman with a haunted childhood and more skeletons than clothes in the cupboard, it soon becomes clear that they will have a weekend to remember.

Director Brian Gillett's cast members were well-rehearsed and seemed very comfortable in their roles.

There were a few first-night wobbly lines here and there, and one or two awkward pauses early on, but on the whole everyone coped admirably with the tough and intense script and rapidly drew the audience into the cold atmosphere of Hill House.

Sarah Oliver gave a very strong performance as the permanently haunted Eleanor, her facial expressions perfectly capturing the character's torment.

Caroline Martin's playful portrayal of Theodora and Tony Oliver's cheery Luke contrasted nicely with Kevin Belcher's ponderously solemn doctor. Meanwhile Janice Garrard added a slightly sinister edge to the role of the housekeeper, Mrs Dudley.

The second act brought a new dimension to the cast with the arrival of Dr Montague's wife, an overbearing medium (well played by Donna Rushman), and her curious gung-ho side-kick Arthur Parker (Roy Glancey).

The star of the show was undoubtedly the impressively solid split-level set, designed with meticulous care by Kevin Belcher and carefully lit by Mark Larby. The players put everything into the detail of the production with strong backstage work and good special effects, and this really enhanced the performance.

This was an unusual and entertaining play, and Brian Gillett should be very pleased with the end result. Even if the detail of the plot and characterisation seemed a little sketchy at times (a problem with the script rather than the performance), the audience were very well entertained - and received one or two memorable shocks. Well worth seeing this weekend.