Written and directed by northern writer Joe O'Byrne, this was one of the first pieces to play at the now renowned Hope Mill Theatre in 2016. Originally due to tour pre-covid, it is now on an extensive UK theatre tour. I caught this at one of my local theatres, the beautiful Crewe Lyceum.
We join Dr Roy Earle, famed for his track record in disproving hauntings and bogus mediums, as he attends a seance at one of the most haunted buildings in Britain, Blaine Manor. He is surrounded by believers in the supernatural, which is at complete odds with his evidence-based ways. With a collection of interesting characters from mediums to reporters, the audience are led carefully down one path, until Grady the butler makes an appearance! From here there are lots of twists, keeping the audience thinking throughout.
The simple set worked really effectively, with the lighting and sound doing the work in creating an eery ambiance. Although a modern play, the whole piece had a timeless feel which is testament to O'Byrne's writing as much as the direction.
The Haunting of Blaine Manor served as a reminder why theatre is so important, particularly for genres like horror. When the show started in blackout, it remained so for some time, really building the atmosphere from the outset. It took a little time to find its feet but by the end of the first act the audience were fully invested in the story, with people having different theories about where it would go. However, no one I spoke to correctly guessed how the story would unfold! A common issue with horror/thriller is predictability, but O'Byrne has written something that keeps the audience guessing throughout. Just when you were convinced you knew where it was going you were led down a completely different track.
Whilst not the type of horror that will give you nightmares; it isn't trying to be. What it is about is carefully building suspense whilst keeping the audience guessing throughout, and it does this superbly. I think this only widens the potential audience for what was awarded the Salford Star Best Play of 2017.
The Haunting of Blaine Manor is on at the Crewe Lyceum until Saturday 17/09/2022 catch it here whilst you can. Ticket link below:
A brief message from Dr Roy Earle himself
I was invited by Crewe Lyceum to watch and review this show. All views are my own