This adaptation has been running at the Fortune Theatre for 23 years and, following the recent film version starring Daniel Radcliffe, is clearly hoping to find new audiences. However, despite excellent performances from its new cast, it is hard to see why any informed theatregoer would choose to see such a poorly produced thriller which elicits more yawning and eye-rolling than screaming.
Adam Best does well to convey the good humour and naivety of a young solicitor who is sent from London to settle the affairs of a deceased client in a provincial town. It is only when he reaches the client’s empty, fortress-like home and stays the night that he understands why mention of the woman’s name unnerves the locals he meets.
While Best’s youthful energy keeps the audience’s attention on the almost bare stage, Ken Drury demonstrates admirable versatility as he plays all of the locals and other solicitors involved in the case.
Unfortunately, these performances take place within the context of a play which deploys every cliché of the thriller - a mysterious locked door, the sound of an empty chair rocking, a phantom in a graveyard - and makes only a cursory effort to build tension. The result can only conjure the sort of surprises that you would normally pay a quid to encounter at a fairground haunted house, and not the cost of a West End ticket.
The show is met by the hysterical overreaction of teenage couples in the audience who are waiting for an excuse to jump into one another’s laps. But even they seem bored and let down at times.