Review: The Enfield Haunting


by Mike Matthaiakis 

The Enfield Haunting“, starring Catherine Tate and David Threlfall, arrives in the West End with the hope of delivering spine-chilling scares. The play draws inspiration from the famous Enfield poltergeist case of the late 1970s, where a single mother, Peggy Hodgson, faced supernatural disturbances in her home, attracting the attention of police, investigators, and the media. However, despite its intriguing source material, the production falls short of creating a truly engaging and frightening experience.

Clocking in at 75 minutes, the play maintains brevity, with a set designed by Lee Newby that exudes an air of menace, offering glimpses into the haunted house. Yet, the narrative fails to capitalize on its potential for scares, resulting in a confusing and lackluster storyline. The pedestrian dialogue and abrupt ending further diminish the overall impact of the show.

Paul Unwin, the play’s writer and co-creator of Casualty, explores various angles in the program, questioning whether the haunting was a result of unleashed forces, triggered by extreme emotions, or possibly a hoax. Unfortunately, the script fails to delve meaningfully into these aspects, leaving the characters lacking nuance and often engaging in expositional dialogue.

Catherine Tate, making a return to the West End, delivers a performance that evolves from initial over-annunciation and mugging into a more nuanced portrayal. Her character, Peggy Hodgson, embodies the quiet despair of an ordinary mother facing supernatural forces while attempting to keep her family together.

David Threlfall, playing investigator Maurice Grosse, adds a warm presence to the production but encounters challenges, particularly in scenes where he believes the possessed child is his deceased daughter. The horror elements, such as flickering lights, clanking pipes, and possessed children, deliver scares that fall short of leaving a lasting impact, feeling reminiscent of better-executed scares elsewhere.

Unwin describes the play as a psychological ghost story for the present. However, in its current form, it struggles to live up to this promise and pales in comparison to other West End offerings. “The Enfield Haunting” may find itself overshadowed by its counterparts, serving as a mere specter at the theatrical feast.

The Enfield Haunting is running at the Ambassadors Theatre until 2 March.