The Hunters of Ghost Hall

Sussex Playwrights Reviews: The Hunters of Ghost Hall

Most Curious Productions
Written and directed by Tristan Wolfe
Music by Adam House
Sweet Werks 1

We’re in the round in this small black box; black drapes, black floor, blackout. Then a torch clicks on.

The play mainly unfolds in the near dark with torches, then in the unreliable glow of an ancient generator in a possibly haunted house.

We meet a ghosthunting TV director, her maybe fake medium and a couple of treasure hunters, as they creep about this strange location, alone or in twos, each pair at first unaware of the other.

As one leaves another slips in, though just as in a farce, those changeovers do need to be simultaneous to keep the pace tight.

Torches are well used, respecting the audience’s need not to be targeted while conjuring up the TV staple of the detectives searching a house with only atmospheric torchlight. They’re at their best when actors shine up on their own or each other’s faces, creating glowing features and flickering hands in the gloom and huge ‘what was that?!’ shadows on the walls. This effect wants to dial up, as it can be difficult watching vague shapes moving in the dark.

James Bennison’s comedy background delivers the entertaining fireworks as the theatrical TV medium Zac who’s going through some interesting purloined snack-related experiences.

As AJ, Akasha Goodenough creates and sustains that essential growing sense of tension and unease throughout, a stranger in this unknown environment, her senses on high alert.

Whenever we meet Lena Hill’s Bonnie and Mel Newton’s Kit, that wary tension dips – we have less of a sense that they are in a strange, dark unknown place, as both appear physically and vocally relaxed and at ease, two friends bantering and bickering through together.

The play features the most committed use of sound we’ve encountered in any Brighton Fringe show this year. From the start, Adam House’s score delivers mood music, eerie singing, the creak of an old house settling – all the haunted house favourites. The play is scored throughout like a film soundtrack, with live thumps and bumps. At busy Fringe venues, sound can leak in from other shows (my Edinburgh death scene featured the Chariots of Fire theme from the show next door). Here, there’s a music show upstairs – but the faint singing just threads into the soundtrack and becomes part of the unsettling effect, and it’s all most effective. There’s a card on your seat if you’d like to download the soundtrack.

On a writing note, it’s not always clear what each character is looking for – perhaps time for another draft to tighten and clarify plotline, with a more definitive ending.

Having seen an extract for Sussex Playwrights in the larger space of the New Venture Theatre, it’s clear that the play would expand well into a larger site-specific location, an old house, perhaps opening out in a promenade version, that could use the discoveries that torchlight can make.

Some clever laughs and creepy moments – especially for those who’ve never liked dolls …

At Sweetwerks 20-26 May 21.15

Philippa Hammond