Recently I had the privilege of  being able to see Haunting Julia, by Alan Ayckbourn on it’s opening night at Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch. Haunting Julia defies conventional expectations of a ghost story, by focusing on character interaction between the living characters in relation to the deceased Julia instead of emphasizing the ‘spooky’ nature of the tale, while also incorporating traditional ‘ghostly’ elements that gradually increase throughout in a way that is believable, due to its subtlety.

The first half of the production was a slow paced wistful tale of a fathers’ despair at not knowing what really lead to his daughters death.  Only occasional bursts of humour and Sam Cox’s vibrant performance as Joe, prevent it from becoming somewhat monotonous. The light hearted entertainment of the audience belies the contrasting and unexpectedly intense end of the play.

The second half of the play picked up where the first half left off, but I found myself pleasantly surprised by the increase in both action and drama it brought with it. Matthew Spencer finally comes into his own as Andy, adding much needed depth of character to the performance with a storyline more compelling than anything presented in the first half, and providing additional character dynamics, that add much needed tension and suspense to the performance. Ken Chase as Clive becomes more than just a comedic character, bringing experience of having known Julia, and becoming slightly more believable.  He is an enormous character, literally, his only minor failing being an evident struggle to maintain his character’s Carribean accent.

I left this performance feeling sated by it’s ending which was worthy of the West End! I would definitely recommend it to anyone in the Hornchurch area, it certainly made my arduous journey to this regional venue worthwhile (and the complimentary canapes!).