Review: Haunting Julia, King’s Theatre

Joe McFadden (Andy) and Duncan Preston (Joe) in Haunting Julia
Joe McFadden (Andy) and Duncan Preston (Joe) in Haunting Julia
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After a successful run in London, acclaimed British playwright Alan Ayckbourn’s psychologically chilling ghost story Haunting Julia arrives in Edinburgh, midway through its first ever UK tour.

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Set in an attic-turned-bedroom-turned-museum, Joe (Duncan Preston) plays the father of a deceased musical genius, Julia, who committed suicide 12 years previously. Joe is still obsessed by the mystery surrounding his daughter’s death, and enlists the help of her ex-boyfriend Andy (Joe McFadden) and psychic Ken (Richard O’Callaghan) to solve it.

Heartbeat’s favourite motorcycle policeman McFadden stars alongside Preston, a familiar face from countless stage and screen productions, including Dinnerladies and Victoria Wood: As seen on TV.

O’Callaghan, whose career has spanned five decades, completes the trio. The three give strong performances, each defining a different side of the argument: McFadden is the cynic, O’Callaghan the believer and Preston the one torn between his hopes and logical explanations. The haunting voice of Julia is pre-recorded by War Horse star Louise Kempton.

Andrew Hall’s production is easy to watch, but lacks the spooky substance that really grabs and holds attention.

Ayckbourn is a multi-award winning writer, and holds more than 75 plays under his belt, including A Chorus of Disapproval and How the Other Half Loves. His work has been produced in the West End and Broadway.

This thriller is somewhat different from his previous work, but still contains a delicate balance of comedy and tragedy, and blends themes of grief, obsession and the supernatural. Predictability and clichés are the downfall of an otherwise thoughtful story.

Haunting Julia will attempt to open your mind to the possibility of paranormal activity, but isn’t scary enough to be convincing. At the heart of Ayckbourn’s play is the journey of a man overcoming bereavement. As more secrets are revealed, the truth of the events surrounding Julia’s death come to light, but the battle between belief in the supernatural and cynicism continues.

Run ends October 13