Tuesday, 16 October 2012

HAUNTING JULIA (UK Tour) October 2012

This is the first UK tour of Alan Ayckbourn's 1994 supernatural thriller - Haunting Julia. The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton is known to have it's fair share of ghosts and although usually a warm and welcoming theatre, on this particular occasion it was somewhat chilly and tense.

Julia Lukin was a musical prodigy, who at the age of 19 took her own life and was found dead in her bedroom. The action begins twelve years later when her father purchases the house next door, knocks through the walls and makes a museum, a "Julia Lukin Centre". John Brooking's incredibly detailed set includes Julia's Bedroom with a gallery style walkway separated off by barrier ropes. Although seemingly spacious, when filled with three men and a presence it soon becomes all too claustrophobic.

Desperately searching for an answer to her death, Julia's father Joe (Duncan Preston) discovers Julia's laugh on some of the informative audio tapes that describe her life. He invites a psychic Ken Chase (Richard O'Callaghan) and Julia's unwilling former boyfriend Andy (Joe McFadden) to investigate.

I think the play is a deliberate slow-burner, nothing much happens to begin with but my mind was working overtime. I think what is scarier than "scary things" happening on stage are the eerie silences and fear of the unknown - this play is crammed with that. Although maybe cliché, there are plenty of unnerving rumblings and wind rustles too - I was petrified the whole way through.

Unease gathers in the auditorium and although this production has an interval (unlike the original which ran for 110 minutes straight-through) the tension remains, I was genuinely worried about what we were going to see in Act II. Richard O'Callaghan's creepy psychic has the audience gripped. His strange storytelling adds to the tension and has the audience in nervous laughter more than once. Duncan Preston expertly captures the strained and desperate father - who'll do anything for an answer. Joe McFadden keeps Andy quite secretive and defensive until he later reveals something key to Julia's story, he and his story become as captivating as the psychic.

The show leads to a dramatic climax, which has been building up throughout. Great timing, with Halloween just around the corner, this is the perfect night for those who like a mystery or enjoy a ghostly tale. I think this one really depends on your 'scare threshold' (mine is awfully low) - it's not so much visually scary as it is psychological.

The show runs at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until Saturday 20th October 2012. You can book tickets here: http://www.grandtheatre.info/WhatsOn_focus.asp?ShowId=631&sC=page10

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