Alan Ayckbourn’s Haunting Julia: Review

Alan Ayckbourn is a renowned play write, famous for his well structured plays filled with meaning and life lessons. Having recently seen another one of his plays, “Time of Our Lives” and throughly enjoyed it, I jumped at the chance of seeing another.

Synopsis

The play is set all in one room. The student attic bedroom where 19-year-old  musical prodigy Julia Lukin died by suspected suicide 12 years previously. Her father Joe, played by the hugely talented Duncan Preston, has converted the house into a museum to her memory and music. Julia was a certified genius, musical works of brilliance flowed out of her and she had become a local celebrity for her talents. The story is about how her father can’t let go of her, how he believes there must have been more to it than suicide or there was something he didn’t know about which drove her to it. He has invited her then boyfriend Andy (Joe McFadden) to get his opinion on the museum and tell him he thinks Julia is haunting him. Joe has also been contacted by a physic (Richard O’Callaghan) who believes he can sense Julia’s presence in the house. With tensions running high and long kept secrets about her death coming out, can they summon her spirit and release it from limbo and in turn, free themselves from their guilt?

My Thoughts

This play is well executed, a simple yet very effective set and well acted on the whole. I admit that I didn’t warm immediately to the Andy character. At first I thought that maybe McFadden’s acting was a bit nervous, timid and wooden but as the play went on and the audience were learning about the characters, it became obvious that was the role rather than the actor. With his broad Scottish accent, it could be hard to hear each work clearly, particularly when his speech fastened when excited or scared. However, by the end, he became the character I most identified with and warmed to him significantly. I also feel that O’Callaghan rushed a few lines, maybe this was a character trait but with accents involved, it should be at the front of the actors mind to pronounce and project. Preston on the other hand was well controlled, well heard and clear and held his own. The storyline was solid and easy to understand. You can caught up in wanting to know the secrets they are all harbouring and then figuring out what happened to Julia that fateful night. The last scene was by far the best in the whole show. Fear, sympathy, shock, relief all in a matter of minutes, a fantastic ending then leaves you buzzing with emotion. The special effects really helped bring that scene together and along with the actors, it was a spectacular end.

Don’t Always Trust Reviews

I’d not heard of “Haunting Julia“. I usually know a little something about the plays I go and watch but this time I went in blind. The only thing I had heard about it was that it was meant to be as creepy and intense as Susan Hill’s “The Woman In Black” according to The Guardian and “As good as Hitchcock” declared by the Daily Mail. These glowing reviews set me up, I’ve seen TWIB and Hitchcock films so I was expecting nail-biting fear, peering through fingers and squealing audiences. You wont get that with this play and as a result I was left feeling disappointed. No fault of the play, it’s certainly worth seeing, but it goes to show reviews can’t always be trusted and to go in believing them can result in being let down.

Worth Seeing

Despite the show not being as creepy and suspense filled as the reviews had led me to believe, this is a play worth seeing. Knowing before hand that it’s a ghost story in its own right and should not be compared to more prominent horror plays will let you decide yourself and remain open to the plot line. You can find out more about the play, cast and where it is touring here: http://www.hauntingjulia.com/

~ All images taken from official website. 

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