The Enfield Haunting at Ambassadors Theatre

It seems to be an unwritten law of the West End that there always needs to be a horror or thriller on, previously Woman in Black held down the fort but since that has closed we have seen 2:22 and now The Enfield Haunting.

The Enfield Haunting is based on the true story of Peggy Hodgson, her 2 daughters Janet and Margaret and her son Jimmy who in the 1970’s found themselves in the centre of a media storm when they begin experiencing strange goings on in the home in Enfield including household items flying around, Janet being pulled from her bed and down the stairs and Janet communicating in a strange voice. Controversy followed it as many, including Maurice Grosse, tried to ascertain how much of it was real and what was put on by the girls. It sounds like the perfect premise for a play….ghostly goings on to build up tension as well as a forgery v supernatural battle to add in for depth yet the play delivered very little of either of these.

A good horror play often succeeds (or not) on the tension that the show can build up, through a variety of mediums, the book, the acting, the lighting but unfortunately this show lacked very little tension and pretty much no suspense. By the end of the play I’m unsure as to if the aim was to scare or if it was to get the audience to feel for single mother Peggy in dealing with everything going on under her roof, however the book achieved neither.

The book is by Paul Unwin and he does very little to explore any of the major themes. The initial threads that it dangles that sparks some intrigue, the sexual awakening of Margaret, the class system, domestic violence, grief and notoriety are all hinted at but none of these, much like the tension of the ghostly goings on are developed, resulting in a frustrating watch.

Catherine Tate took on the role of Peggy and her portrayal was difficult to warm to with an odd intonation for her character which began to grate as the play moved on. David Threlfall played Maurice Grosse, the investigator who may have an ulterior motive for being there. Whilst Threlfall tries his best, he struggles to deliver a character who makes me feel….well…..anything, although this is through no fault of his own but due to the book. Both himself and Tate appear unconcerned when Janet passes out and even less so when the fireplaced is ripped off Peggy’s wall but the book nor the direction allows time for this to be considered.

Ella Schrey-Yeats makes her stage debut as Janet and she is one of the highlights of the show. She succeeds in creating in front of us a combination of a troubled child who is clearly experiencing something otherworldly at points in the show.

The set design by Lee Newby however is a real strength of the show. A single set for the duration of the show transports us to a 2 story, run down Council House which evokes a great feeling of both time and place. However the illusions taking place within the set were infrequent and fairly predictable. There were bodies appearing in parts of the set unexpectedly, or at least they were supposed to be a surprise however the fading of lights often gave us a clue where we might next see a ghostly figure. Considering what illusions the West End is often able to pull off this felt disappointing and like I had seen it all before.

It is a shame that this book peppered with interesting ideas fails to deliver on a single one of them and the main suspense surrounding this play now will be if it can last until the end of its designated run.

The Enfield Haunting is playing at Ambassadors Theatre until 2nd March 2024. Thank you to London Box Office for the tickets. You can buy your tickets here to The Enfield Haunting and many other shows through London Box Office.

If you like this review you might also like my review of Back to the Future, Six and my 2023 theatre summary.

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