REVIEW: ‘The House on Cold Hill’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, April 2019

 

Being scared has never been quite as much fun as it is in the stage adaptation of bestselling author Peter James’ supernatural thriller, The House on Cold Hill.

A distinct chill is discernible in the air at Milton Keynes Theatre thanks to the arrival of this entertaining play, which is described by the cast and creatives as a “modern day ghost story”.

All things considered, the production neatly fulfils its brief. The action occurs in a sprawling country house where things go bump in the night. The cast includes a geeky ghost hunter, a madcap medium, and a sceptical but likeable family. The everyday gadgets that we all now rely on are heavily featured and, at times, seem to be controlled by the spirit world.

This production is not so scary that it will send shivers down your spine, but the twists and turns will keep you gripped and there are moments that will tickle your funny bone. Expect to be intrigued rather than intimidated, amused rather than alarmed and somewhat spooked rather than totally terrified.

 

The House on Cold Hill. Charlie Clements, Tricia Deighton, Rita Simons, Persephone Swales-Dawson and Joe McFadden onstage in a shadowy, creepy house (photo by Helen Maybanks)

 

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REVIEW: ‘War Horse’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, September 2018

 

War Horse is an extraordinary, emotionally exhausting piece of theatre that embodies both the essence of the equine and the futility of war.

The narrative boldly recounts the universal suffering that the First World War inflicted on men, women, children and the unsung heroes of the war effort – the horses. Ten million people died in the First World War, along with unknown millions of horses. In the carnage of the French battlefields, the 1914–1918 conflict proved to be a horrific experience on both sides of the frontline. Quite simply, there were no winners.

Former Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo was inspired to write War Horse after seeing an old painting of a cavalry charge and realising that by describing the experience of the war through the eyes of a horse he could convey the plight of both British and German soldiers.

Noble steed Joey – who is half thoroughbred, half working farm horse – sees the best and worst of humanity throughout the deadly chaos of the First World War. His eventful life begins as a foal on a farm in Devon, where he is lovingly tamed and trained by his young master Albert Narracott.

Devastatingly, the pair are forcibly separated when war is declared as Joey is sold to the Army and shipped off to France. Here, he serves as a British officer’s charger and, after being captured, on the German side. Unable to bear being parted from his cherished companion, Albert lies about his age and enlists with the intention of bringing Joey home. After inspiring everyone he meets, Joey is found wandering and wounded in no man’s land where the story reaches its emotional climax.

 

War Horse. The National Theatre production. People and puppets work together to portray a boy and his horse.

 

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REVIEW: ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, September 2017

 

You can’t help but be charmed by clever Christopher, the protagonist of multi award-winning National Theatre production The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Christopher finds people difficult. He is irked by idioms, muddled by metaphors and baffled by body language. Ultimately, he is catastrophically confused by the chaos and uncertainty that unfamiliar people have the potential to bring to his painstakingly structured world. Consequently, fifteen-year-old Christopher avoids strangers and has never left his quiet cul-de-sac in Swindon unaccompanied.

How brave, then, for this mathematically gifted teenager with behavioural problems to adopt the role of detective in a bid to solve a curious incident involving the murder of his neighbour’s dog.

 

David Michaels as Ed and Scott Reid as Christopher Boone in the National Theatre production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

 

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