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The Enfield Haunting | Ambassadors Theatre

The Enfield Haunting, written by Paul Unwin and directed by Angus Jackson, looks to be an extraordinary supernatural thriller inspired by the real-life Enfield poltergeist events in the late 1970s. The narrative centres around single mother Peggy Hodgson (Catherine Tate) who is losing hope, following a series of bizarre events revolving around her daughter Janet (Ella Schrey-Yeats). The investigation into the case is led by Maurice Grosse (David Threlfall), who arrives on the night the play is set.

 

The production appears to have all the ingredients necessary for a successful production: an extraordinary supernatural thriller inspired by real-life events in Enfield during the late 1970s, complete with reports of unexplained poltergeist activity. The cast, featuring stars Catherine Tate and David Threlfall makes it a promising choice for the box office. Additionally, the creative team includes experienced set and costume designers, directors, and award-winning lighting and sound designers. However, despite checking these boxes, the show is confusing and messy.

 

One of the major drawbacks of the production is the bewildering and muddled script by Unwin. The storyline, inspired by real events and characters, fails to provide a clear direction, leaving the audience confused and questioning the purpose of the play’s premise. The characters' motivations and beliefs are unclear, and the attempts to add depth to Hodgson and Grosse's characters only serve to further complicate matters in the limited time of the play.



Furthermore, the underlying narrative surrounding Grosse raises concerns, suggesting inappropriate motivations due to his interest in young girls. Additionally, there is confusion regarding the connection between eleven-year-old Janet Hodgson, the vessel through which the poltergeist manifests, and Grosse's deceased daughter, also named Janet, who passed away in a motorcycle accident.

 

Despite attempts at suspense and occasional humour (although I suspect this was not intended), the play fails to create a genuinely engaging or gripping experience. The supernatural occurrences, such as a gas fire being ripped out of the wall, are met with an inexplicable nonchalance by the characters.

 

While there are some positive aspects, such as the impressive two-level set design by Lee Newby and the atmospheric lighting design by Neil Austin, these elements are not enough to salvage the overall experience. The acting is passable but falls short of the potential showcased by the talented cast. Tate, in particular, has the capability to do much more and this is a missed opportunity to fully utilise the talent at hand. Threlfall's attempt at a nuanced performance is acknowledged, balancing kindness, curiosity, and grief. Schrey-Yeats is somewhat convincing in her portrayal of the possessed Janet. The supporting cast, including Grace Molony (Margaret) and Noah Leggott (Jimmy) delivers average performances.

 

Overall, The Enfield Haunting feels like a missed opportunity. Despite having the potential for success with its intriguing premise and notable cast, the play fails to deliver a thrilling, gripping, or engaging experience, leaving most audiencesunsatisfied and disappointed.

 

The Enfield Haunting plays at the Ambassadors Theatre until the 2nd March. For more information and tickets, follow this link.


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AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Marc Brenner

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