1950s Hollywood meets M R James: The Haunting of Blaine Manor @ Hope Mill Theatre

Hollywood glamour and mind games with an unexpected twist are thrust together in the gothic surrounds of an English haunted house in Joe O’Byrne’s The Haunting of Blaine Manor.

It’s 1953, and the American sceptic, the eccentric parapsychologist, the medium and the journalist are united for a creepy séance at Blaine Manor – a house with a disturbing history.

Split into two acts, the first certainly fits the bill for a good old ghost story.

It’s not long before the classic storm sets in, the whiskey flows, and things start to unravel for the troupe.

What’s nice is that the audience is right in there amongst the actors.

It’s easy to imagine being in the drawing room with these glitzy characters, though elements such as the loud, repetitive minor chord music can be distracting at times – more Disney theme ride than genuinely eerie.  

Writer Joe O’Byrne, who also plays mysterious butler Grady, states that The Haunting of Blaine Manor is ‘1950s black and white Hollywood classics meets M R James, Edgar Allan Poe and H P Lovecraft’.

Peter Slater, who plays sceptic American parapsychologist Roy Earle, goes a long way to help O’Byrne achieve that blend.

He pulls off a Southern drawl straight from the movies as his visible Poe-like conflicted character spirals deeper into his guilty past and he fights to keep up his rationale.

Interplay between Roy and seductive journalist Vivian could well have been ripped from the Hollywood screen and plonked onto the stage.

However, you get the feeling that the story attempts to tick too many boxes for the ghost story genre.

There’s a mysterious horseman, then it’s all about witchcraft, and before we know it we’re steaming into demon territory.

Still it’s entertaining, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

The twist is unexpected, and arrives just at the point when tale after spooky tale is verging on the mundane.

It won’t give you nightmares, but for anyone who likes an old fashioned ghost story The Haunting of Blaine Manor is good fun.

Image courtesy of Joe O’Bryne, via YouTube, with thanks.

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