Theatre Review - The Enfield Haunting

David Threfall in The Enfield Haunting [Marc Brenner]

THE Enfield Haunting boasts a pedigree creative team and cast so it’s a surprise that Paul Unwin’s play, based on the extraordinary true story of an alleged north London poltergeist in the late 70s, falls flat.

Single Mum Peggy Hodgson (Catherine Tate) and her three children, an ordinary, working-class family, were living in a council house in Enfield when they became the centre of fierce scrutiny after claiming furniture and toys had started moving of their own accord.

Unwin sets his play during one night in the spring of 1978. Maurice Grosse (David Threlfall), a ghost hunter from the Society for Psychical Research, sets up a camera and sensors and stays over while listening to the recordings he’s made of Janet (Ella Schrey-Yeats), Peggy’s youngest daughter, speaking in a distorted voice. It’s later revealed that Maurice is grieving the loss of his own daughter in an accident. Is there a connection?

The neighbour Rey (Mo Sesay) keeps popping in, much to Peggy’s annoyance – she has to make endless cups of tea for both men. Meanwhile, things go bump in the night, furniture is hurled around and the gas fire is wrenched from the wall.

Suspicion falls on the two sisters, Janet and Margaret (Grace Molony), as being the perpetrators of a giant hoax – lasting 18 months between 1977 and 1979 – but certain things would  have been difficult to fake. Then we learn about the house’s previous inhabitant who died in the armchair. Unwin clearly wants to keep us guessing.

Tate and Threlfall do their best, but Angus Jackson’s tame production instils little fear, fails to grip, and only intermittently engages on a psychological level. Co-creator of Casualty and Holby City, Unwin’s 75-minute play feels closer in tone to a script for EastEnders.

Until March 2

Originally published by Westminster Extra