Preview: The Haunting of Hill House at the Liverpool Playhouse
November 30, 2015
Christmas might be a time for sparkling lights and a warming embrace but it is also a time to look into the dark.
What is it that draws people to ghost stories as the icy chill of midwinter creeps ever closer? Perhaps an eternal fixation with mortality, or simply the fun of giving ourselves a scare. Either way, The Haunting of Hill House at the Liverpool Playhouse is story designed to grab hold of our senses and challenge our preconceptions.
Director Melly Still says: “There is a cosiness about Christmas, the curtains drawn at the end of the year that’s about keeping the darkness out. But it gets in. It’s a battle, a struggle between life and death and whether it’s all worth it.”
Shirley Jackson’s story, turned into the 1963 film The Haunting, brings together four people in a supposedly haunted house: a paranormal investigator, a shy young woman, her invalid mother, and the young male heir to the property. Enough there for any Freudian-minded or supernaturally-inclined theatre-goer to get their teeth into.
Still adds: “Shirley Jackson was an American writer in the 50s who wan’t so much a horror writer as someone interested in the collective behaviour you might get in certain times and certain situations.
“She was very interested in that time in the 50s where there was an American family ideal and she found a certain unhappiness underneath. She approaches it in a witty, quirky way. There is no typical hero figure; what was of interest is what the house represents, a manifestation of people’s fears.
“Whether it’s psychological or supernatural, you’re never quite sure. All of us experience shame and fear, fear of being found out, and it’s up to the audience to make their own minds up.”
For this six-week run at the Playhouse, Still and writer Anthony Neilson have teamed up with the born-again Hammer Productions, a name steeped in the history of classic British horror films and behind the movie adaptation of Woman In Black in 2012.
“We all know Hammer from way back and this is a new venture for them and all credit to the Playhouse for putting it on.
“Woman In Black was more of a ‘jump scare’ treatment, whereas this has a lingering menace, a dread,” Still said.
The Haunting of Hill House is at the Liverpool Playhouse December 7th 2015- January 16th 2016.