When things start to go bump in the night at The House on Cold Hill it quickly becomes clear to the Harcourt family that their dream home has turned into the stuff of nightmares and maybe, just maybe they are not the only ones ‘living’ there…
Think of a ghost story and you’re probably summoning up visions of grey Victorian ladies, floating ethereally through mist shrouded graveyards, or headless horsemen galloping along country lanes scaring the breeches off stagecoach passengers.
For best-selling author, Peter James, Shaun McKenna’s stage adaptation of his 2015 novel, The House on Cold Hill, which opens tonight at Milton Keynes Theatre, was inspired by what happened to him and his former wife – and there’s not a headless horseman in sight.
“It’s a very modern ghost story” says Peter. “On top of that The House On Cold Hill is a thriller and audiences are in for lots of shocks and twists and turns so I hope they’ll be getting some nice scares along the way.”
BAFTA nominated actor and winner of BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing 2017, Joe McFadden, stars as new owner of the house, Ollie Harcourt.
We talked to Joe about ghostly happenings – both in the play and in real life!
Joe says: “Peter has created a story that is both chilling and an interesting portrayal of modern family life. It will definitely make you think twice about buying that sprawling dream pad in the country!”
Peter James says that the plot of The House on Cold Hill came out of his own experience in a place that had some odd goings on. Have you based the character of Olly on him?
Not really. It’s very loosely based on his experiences of moving into a house that he subsequently discovered was haunted.
He and his wife were both seeing these things but neither wanted to admit it because they didn’t want to scare each other.
That’s very much what happens in the play. My wife, Caro, and I experience things at different times but we don’t want to tell each other because we’ve sunk all our money into this big house and neither of us want to admit it.
But there’s no getting away from the fact that there might be something terribly wrong with it.
Have you had any ghostly experiences yourself?
I’ve never had anything directly happen to me but I did have a friend come into my house one time and tell me that there was a man on the stairs who had a message for me. The message ended up turning out to be true.
The man told me to lock my terrace door, and I didn’t really take much notice of it because I live on the fifth floor, but then a few weeks later someone did come in so it made me think that there’s a lot more to this supernatural stuff than I first thought!
You speak to people like Peter who are sensible intelligent people who absolutely believe in it and have had first – hand experience of it and you think there must be something in it but I don’t feel I want to experience it. I’m quite happy not to.
One of the characters in the play says that it’s a gift that you’re born with – the ability to speak to people on the other side – and I’m quite glad that it’s not a gift that I have”.
Award-winning actress, Rita Simons, who played the iconic Roxy Mitchell in Eastenders, takes the role of his wife, Caro Harcourt.
Fellow EastEnder, Charlie Clements, joins the cast as Chris and Persephone Swales- Dawson – villainess Nico Blake in Hollyoaks – makes her professional stage debut as Jade.
The House on Cold Hill becomes the fourth of Peter James’ novels to be adapted for the stage following the huge success of Not Dead Enough, The Perfect Murder and Dead Simple.
Whether or not you’ve read the book, The House on Cold Hill will be a fresh entertaining modern day thriller that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats.
“And there’s a kind of comfort in that” says Peter “because you’ve got the shared thrill and you’re surrounded by hundreds of others so everybody jumps at the same time – then everyone laughs.”
The House on Cold Hill runs at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday before touring to New Victoria Theatre, Woking (April 23–27); Leeds Grand Theatre (April 29–May 4); Alexandra Theatre Birmingham (May 6-11); Manchester Opera House (May 13-18); Cambridge Arts Theatre (May 20-25); Theatre Royal Glasgow (May 28-June 1); Connaught Theatre Worthing (June 3-8) and Everyman Theatre Cheltenham (June 11-15).