There’s a chill in the air this week as Peter James’s creepy paranormal thriller The House On Cold Hill arrives at Milton Keynes Theatre.
Boasting a cast of famous faces, including Strictly winner Joe McFadden and Eastenders’ Rita Simons, this is a story set firmly in the present day with all the latest tech, FaceTiming, Alexa, Snapchat and Instagram all make an appearance and make the spooky events feel even more real.
The story follows the Harcourts – Ollie, Caro and their daughter Jade – as they move into a historic Gothic house that has been empty for the last forty years. They are excited about their new dream home and Ollie’s new web design business but strange things start to happen and they begin to think that maybe there could be some truth to the villagers’ whispers that Cold Hill is haunted… but are they being set up?
Peter James is known for his best-selling DS Roy Grace books, which all have the word Dead in the title, but this story was based on his own experiences of living in a haunted house.
There are great performances from Heartbeat and Holby City star Joe McFadden who plays the role of Ollie with a convincing skepticism and Albert Square’s Roxy, Rita Simons as his wife Caro. They have a great chemistry and their relationship is believable and affectionate. Joining them are Charlie Clements (Bradley in EastEnders) as computer geek and ghost expert Chris, and Persephone Swales-Dawson (Nico Blake in Hollyoaks) who is well cast as their eye-rolling teen daughter Jade who does actually say “LOL” at one point.
The story has all the classic elements of a formulaic ghost story – the unsuspecting family who move into a big old scary house where someone once died. But although the plot is minimal and a little cliched, the writing and acting make this feel believable and very real. There is a good pace with plenty going on and several genuine scares which will make you jump.
Some moments do feel very creepy but it might have been scarier if less of the ‘ghost’ was actually seen and more was left to your imagination. Without giving anything away, the climax of the story was so predictable that there was an audible murmur from the audience whispering what was about to happen.
This is a refreshingly different kind of show with a great cast which is thoroughly entertaining and satisfyingly scary.