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Review: Modern ghouls in A Haunting, King's Head #Festival46

James Thackeray in A Haunting

Nathan Lucky Wood's play A Haunting starts with a disembodied voice but this isn't a ghost story in the conventional sense as the voice comes from a computer. It isn't sci-fi either - the voice belongs to a fellow gamer that 15-year-old Mark (James Thackeray) has got chatting to.

The ghost voice (Jake Curran) sends him links to graphic video's of religious extremists committing atrocities and wants to meet up. Mark's mum Anna (Beatrice Curnew) is working late, there are hints that things aren't harmonious at home - is this a set up for him being radicalised? Perhaps, except that the ghost's voice doesn't sound quite right (if there is a right sound).

Mark and the ghost then start describing sexually-laced scenarios, verbally roll-playing. Perhap's ghost is a paedophile, then? Perhaps, but then when he describes his fantasy it is an innocent domestic scene involving cooking Bolognese.

All the time the ghost is trying to persuade Mark to meet and eventually he relents. He is spookily close to where Mark lives and he knows his mobile number. What happens next shines the spotlight in a completely different corner.

It is always going to be tricky having your protagonist sat in front of a lap top, talking to someone who isn't physically there for a chunk of the play. It is performed well but there are only the occasional calls from mum to break up what is quite a long and fairly static scene (if you haven't got a good view then it can add to the problem). Despite this the tension does start to mount as the metaphorical net of danger looms over Mark and the mystery of the ghost's intentions grows. 

What happens at the rendezvous is a different matter. It isn't what you expect and that can be a good thing, but I'm not sure it is here. It turns out to be a more conventionally symbolic haunting and it feels like the play doesn't add up to the sum of its parts. Maybe that's just me. I'm giving it three and a half stars and it is 60 minutes without an interval.

It is as the King's Head Theatre on July 23, 28, 30 and Aug 25 and 27.

* Weather warning: The King's Head doesn't have air con but there are ceiling fans which do make a bit of a difference during this warm weather but it is a good idea to get a large, cold drink to take in with you.