Review: House on Cold Hill at Theatre Royal Brighton

*I received complimentary tickets in return of this honest review 

This week I had a rare night out in Brighton! I realised at the very beginning of the year that I hardly ever do anything away from home and the children in the evening, so my New Years Resolution this year was to get out of the house with friends in the evening at least once a month! Of course I love doing the babies bath and bedtime routine, but breaking the cycle once in a while is so good for the soul. Since I’ve been planning more evening events in I have felt mentally rejuvenated, as a Mum it’s important to plan time away every once in a while too.

So this month’s outing was a trip to the Theatre Royal Brighton to see House on Cold Hill, a production written and produced by one of my very favourite Brighton authors Peter James. He usually writes crime novels, many of which are set in and around Brighton. I’ve read most of them as not only are they amazingly gripping page-turners but I absolutely love the familiarity when reading them, especially when they describe local points of interest or the roads around the area we live. Every single book of his sucks you in and grips you from the first page. I know once I start one I won’t be able to put it down!

So, I was intrigued to see how Peter James’ work could be turned into a spine-tingling ghost story and how that would be portrayed in the theatre too.  I went with my lovely friend and next-door-neighbour Kate, who too was in need of a night away from the daily grind of parenting – so, as Mums-on-the-loose (haha ?) we treated ourselves to some dinner before the show at Wagamamas before heading down to the Theatre Royal Brighton for the show.

We saw The House on Cold Hill on it’s first night in Brighton and the place was PACKED. Every seat filled and a buzz of anticipation as everyone took to their seats. Peter James has a huge following in Brighton, so I knew it would be a popular one! I was so intrigued and felt so on edge as knowing it was a spooky horror I felt like something was going to jump out at us at any moment!

The show stars Joe McFadden (Heartbeat, Holby City and Strictly winner 2017), Rita Simons (EastEnders) and Persephone Swales-Dawson (Hollyoaks) and is a spine-tingling thriller with a very modern twist.

The ghostly story begins when the Harcourt family move into their house of the dreams. The House on Cold Hill has been empty for the last forty years, is in need of huge renovations. It’s unclear why the property has been empty for so long. The first half is mainly setting the scene, with the family moving in and getting used to their new surroundings. They are just your average family with a stroppy teenage daughter, who is less than pleased about moving away from central Brighton and her friends. She spends most of her time on Facetime and Instagram, staying in touch with her friends and complaining loudly about the state of the house. The Dad is a web designer who is frantically setting up his own business as well as organising renovations to the house.

Alongside the move, they are eagerly planning the Dad’s 40th birthday which involves his birthday present – an Alexa, which you’ never believe turns out to be involved in the story in more ways than you’d expect. It really made me think about how much technology infiltrates our lives and what could happen when that is compromised or goes wrong!

During the first half, I felt like I was watching an episode of Eastenders, it had a soap opera feel and although I’d bought into the story and began to form attachments to the characters I wondered how it could change from an upbeat family story to something more sinister for the second half. That being said, I still felt on the edge of my seat – aware that something could happen at any moment.

The second half is where the story really unfolds. It takes a supernatural twist which is interlaced with modern touches, social networks, the Alexa, youtube and Facetime all play a part as well as more traditional ghost story themes. It was certainly jumpy at times, with people in our row jumping so hard I felt the seats move and a few little squeals too! The performance comes to a crescendo at the very end with a big twist none of us were expecting! As we left the theatre there were shocked and surprised faces, with nearly everyone discussing the plot lines and twists in fine detail – the sign of a good thriller.

Overall, it was a gripping and enjoyable performance. For a ghost story it was current, light-hearted at times and totally relatable. It felt like just normal family life, which added to how creepy the story line became.

If you fancy seeing The House on Cold Hill, they are in Brighton all this week (4th-9th March 2019) before they move on and tour around the rest of the country! You can book your tickets through SeatPlan now!

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