A pub with all the spirits

Peaceful

Peaceful

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Peaceful

The Continental, Preston

A pub theatre might seem the perfect place to conjure up spirits, but not in a play serving half measures.

Wrapped around a spooky mansion, three grim characters, and a séance, here were all the ingredients for a Hallowe’en horror story. What we got was the wrong kind of shocker whose brevity, at least, did it credit.

It was the latest work from The Off-Off-Off-Broadway Company – a theatre group that was involved in last year’s Guild celebrations – and is based on the real-life tale of Sarah Winchester.

She was the American heiress whose grief led her to virtually barricade herself in what has become San Jose’s infamous Winchester Mystery House.

In Peaceful she becomes one Ethel Charles (played by Laura Louise Baker) hiding from ghosts she believes to be hunting her.

With the help of her contractor (Polis Loizou) and a psychic (Jaacq Hugo) she seeks to make peace with the dead before she joins them.

Some effort has been made to devise three colourful characterisations and designer Eleanor Field’s dustsheet-draped setting evokes the right mood.

But throughout the 45-minute performance there is a highly-distracting background ‘soundscape’ that suggests Ms Charles might have the builders in!

Played above voices that are indistinct to begin with and it becomes an unfair fight.

Three perfomers largely seated in a row do not make for thrilling theatre at the best of times, but dump the soundtrack, make contact with a director, and Peaceful might just become the right kind of fright night.

David Upton