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Haunted (tour - Worthing, Connaught Theatre)

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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Let’s just say that you have been given the task of casting this new play by Ron Aldridge. You have Peter Amory – an actor well-known from Emmerdale – and Nick Ricketts – a recent Cambridge graduate who has one previous production to his credit. The two roles to be cast are for older and younger cousins, and you have 50 year-old Amory and 22 year-old Ricketts. It seems to me a very obvious choice, and yet the producer and director Ian Dickens has messed it up quite royally.

Having said that, casting Amory as the younger cousin (and double murderer) Paul Pengelly with Ricketts as the spirit of his older cousin Richard Tremayne, is the least of his crimes in a piece which doesn’t seem to know exactly what it is or where it is heading. Even the publicity for the show seems to be having difficulty, as the re-titled play is listed as a psychological, supernatural, erotic, comedy thriller which appears to offer a little bit of something for everyone, but delivers very little to anyone.

The plot, from the very outset, is frighteningly obvious and, within about 20 minutes I had, fairly accurately, predicted the ending. Amory, in the leading role of Paul, does have moments where his performance is good, but all too often he stands in one of those end-of-the-soap-opera poses that would benefit from a close-up camera shot and some dramatic music.

Nicola Weeks plays Melanie Tremayne, sister to Richard and mistress (and also first cousin) of Mr Pengelly. She acts well, and deals with those elongated poses as best she can, but the two are not really believable as a cheating couple as there is very little connection between them. The other problem is also age related. In the storyline the two characters are supposed to be the same age and yet Weeks is of a similar age to Ricketts.

The strongest actor in the piece is Joanne Heywood as Susan Pengelly. She gets the very best of the lines and delivers them with precision and, at times, humour. Her character is bent on revenge, for an unpunished crime, and the determination to see justice done is the most enjoyable part of the piece. She also has the lion’s share of the pseudo-erotic moments, although those points in the play did seem to cause some discomfort in the audience.

Unfortunately this production never really rises above its fundamental flaws, but one good thing that I can say about it is that it is mercifully short at just under two hours. With recasting and some drastic alterations to Richard Tremayne’s endless explanations of the connection between this life and the ethereal plane, on which he now exists, this production could be so much better but, as it is, the muted reaction at the end was also very predictable.


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