Sunday, 6 March 2011

The Haunting - The Lantern Theatre, Liverpool

Writer/Director:  Liam Scott
Reviewer:  Clare Howdon

‘The Haunting’, currently playing at The Lantern Theatre tells the story of young couple Mark and Stacey’s weekend break at a secluded cottage in Wales. What was intended as a well deserved and relaxing trip quickly transcends into a night of terror, as the couple begin to discover that they are not alone in this old and sinister cottage.

‘The Haunting’ both written and directed by Liam Scott is genuinely scary and this is one of the plays biggest strengths. Whilst many plays often promise an evening of ‘spine tingling terror’, Liam Scott’s production truly delivers. Scott’s innovative direction creates knife cutting tension throughout and this coupled with the intimacy of the Lantern Theatre space would require you to possess a cast-iron constitution not to be reduced to a nervous, twitching wreck by the end of the two hours.  The first half of the play, despite feeling fairly slow paced serves well in building up this bubbling tension and the equally important relationship between Mark and Stacey. The mixture between comedy and horror is fairly well balanced although there are perhaps a few too many ‘Fancy a quick shag love?’ jokes. However the dialogue is natural and the relationship between the two characters is entirely comfortable and convincing to watch.

Anna Hudson and Barry Mason both give solid performances as Mark and Stacey. Anna Hudson has a natural ease on stage and portrays the character of the exasperated, put-upon partner excellently, never allowing her fear of the cottage to descend into ham-horror exaggeration. Barry Mason is a little less consistent. His portrayal of Mark in the first half is sometimes a tad too large and clown-like for the small space and there is a lot of playing for laughs. However his performance really comes alive in the second half of the play and you are left with an unfeigned fondness for this loveable rogue.

Terence Keating also has to be a given a mention for an outstanding set design and this coupled with Ben Whitmore’s inventive lighting and Soundtech Solutions imposing soundscape and special effects all contribute to the threatening and claustrophobic feel of this piece.

As a first timer to The Lantern Theatre, I also feel obliged to congratulate Liam Scott and his team on what a wonderful space this is. There is something really special about the Lantern Theatre; warm, welcoming and unpretentious – this is exactly what fringe theatre is about. What makes this theatre company even more exceptional is that they are producing high spec theatre such as ‘The Haunting’ without any funding or grants. In our current political climate, The Lantern Theatre Company are an inspiration to the arts community, and a company that the people of Liverpool should be very proud of.

Reviewed on the 5th March 2011
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