Review: The Haunting of Hill House

An Invitation to Terror: The Haunting of Hill House Reviewed
Liverpool Playhouse, 7 December 2015-16 January 2016

While you might leave behind one or two of the wordier scenes and the occasionally convoluted machinations of the plot, the warped, surreal benightedness of The Haunting Of Hill House – a new commission for the stage from Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse — will almost certainly follow you out of the theatre.

Originally published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s classic novel on which the play is based tells of four characters gathering at a New England mansion at the behest of a paranormal researcher to observe alleged ghostly activity. It was memorably made into a film — The Haunting — in 1963, directed by Robert Wise — whose eclectic resumé also included The Curse of the Cat People, The Day the Earth Stood Still, West Side Story and The Sound of Music — and again in 1999, in a version by Jan de Bont (featuring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Liam Neeson) best consigned to the vaults. Now it is on stage for the first time ever, in an adaptation co-produced by Hammer; the company most famous for the Gothic horror films it produced from the ‘50s through to the ‘70s.

Emily Bevan (The Casual Vacancy, In the Flesh) plays Eleanor – Nell — a New England woman tormented by the memory of her late mother. She is the first true star of this adaptation, taking an even more central role than did Julie Harris in the brilliantly executed film version. We experience almost everything through her, being moved at times to amusement at her foibles; sympathy with, perhaps pity at, her neuroses; and unearthly dread as she finds herself increasingly terrorised by Hill House, a place that both tortures her and fulfils her dreams. Like her, Hill House does not appear to have escaped its … [Read the full review at The Double Negative]

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