Review: The Haunting of Blaine Manor at the Stafford Gatehouse

Writer & Director: Joe O’Bryne

The house lights dim, the stage in darkness and what feels like a minute of silence, from the getgo this eerie ghost story by Joe O’Bryne sets you on edge and keeps you guessing.

Following the initial mixture of darkness and silence, O’Bryne’s script almost pulls you in go a false sense of security. The calm relaxing atmosphere of the 50s, the brightly lit stage and the introduction of Peter Slater as Doctor Roy Earle, a widow Doctor who’s a skeptic of ghosts and any panorama goings on and is known for exposing fake medians. It all seems quite tranquil, albeit tense as he’s introduced to a variety of to a variety of characters including a collumist, a mindreader and a psychic.

Set across two acts, the first act is used mainly to set the scene and the characters watching the drama unfold as Roy’s feelings toward the supernatural are unleashed. You also get to understand Roy and his relationship with his late wife and how she came to pass. Peter Slater’s performance as Doctor Roy Earle brings a strong core to the production, while also having a broken fagaility about him.

Once thing that’s noticeable is the pace. O’Bryne, also the director uses silence to build up tension. You never know when you’re going to get caught off guard or whether it’s a false herring.Its those red herrings that then allow other moments to have a pure electric intensity about them. It wouldn’t be a good ghost story without at least a couple of jumpy moments, and that definitely happens in this production.

It’s the intricate nature of O’ Bryne’s script that’s central to the success of the piece however. It’s been formed with so many trusts and turns that its not until the closing moments does everything come together.

Justin Wetherill’s staccato sound design heightens moments of drama by surrounding you throughout the auditorium with an almost techno sound that although not period accurate, marries well with the 50s setting and sends your pulse racing almost by itself.

Rather than over complicate the lighting effects, David Heald’s lighting is simplistic but punchy. The use of real candlight in the second act aids creates a beautifully dimly lit haunted stage.

The Haunting of Blaine Manor will catch you off guard in one ways than one. It will make you jump, it will keep you guessing, this thrilling two hours of theatre will have you on the edge of your seats.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Value for Money Comments:
A large cast, with a simple and effective staging and lighting pull of a thrilling couple of hours for £18 tickets.

🎁This production was gifted in exchange for a fair and balanced review

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