The death of a child prodigy leaves a chilling mark behind in this tightly-wrought production of an Alan Ayckbourn classic.
Haunting Julia takes place in a single room — the room that once belonged to talented young musician Julia Lukin. Now the room is at the heart of a centre dedicated to her memory: but those memories are far from happy.
As the story unfolds we hear from her father, played by Duncan Preston, her pseudo-boyfriend (Joe McFadden) and a surprising friend (Richard O’Callaghan), their dialogue laced with Ayckbourn’s famous wit.
Preston convinces as the father distressed by his daughter’s untimely death; hungry for answers and with a deep-seated and confused ire.
Nervous at being bought back in to a past life, McFadden is a study of denial – so closed and concerned that his hands barely leave his coat pockets, constantly drawn in an act of protection.
With more than a hint of Derek Acorah, O’Callaghan charms and disgusts as the part-time psychic recruited in a bid to understand Julia’s demise.
The set is a simple one, but the control of the lighting is masterful with Matthew Eagland’s subtle design gently melding the atmosphere as the play creeps to its conclusion. The production is said to have triggered calls to 999. I didn’t find it that terrifying — the jokes keep it too light for that — but there are shocks, and some dark indications of Julia’s last moments.
A little late for Halloween, but nonetheless a spooky story for the darkening nights.