The Ghosts of Halfway House

By Richard James

19th – 21st October 2023 (with Saturday Matinee)

A spooky drama for Halloween!
Simon and Daphne are looking around an old house, with Simon’s mother in tow. They aren’t convinced it’s the right place for them, and Mr Godley the estate agent is unusual. They’re in for quite an evening before they find out more than they expected about the house and its history.

The Cast

Mr Godley: Pete Watt
Nora Patterson: Mary Warrington
Simon Patterson: Phil Prior
Daphne: Jasmine Mullany
Paul: George Buckland
Sally: Teagan O’Brien
Estate Agent: Catherine Lee

Directed by Helen Saxton

Newbury Weekly News Review

NODA Report

Group: Compton Players
Show: The Ghosts of Halfway House Venue: Compton Village Hall
Date: 20 October 2023
Director: Helen Saxton

The Ghosts of Halfway House by Richard James is a ghost story that is more intriguing than scary. The play begins when a young married couple and mother (of the husband) are shown around a house they need to rent. The ‘estate agent’ is evasive when asked questions such as: how long have you been an estate agent? How did you make tea when there’s no kettle in the kitchen? Where does that door lead? Why doesn’t it open? And why isn’t it on the plans?

Front of House: The front of house team welcomed patrons and helped to create the atmosphere ready for the production. Refreshments were provided before the performance and in the interval.

The programme: The programme – A5, had messages from the Chair and Director, list of cast and production team, photos and biographies of the cast, a list of the group’s previous ghostly productions and also a list of other local productions. There was no time line given; this would have given the plot away!

Scenery/Set/Properties The set, described as a dilapidated living room of a detached Victoria House gave a good impression of the era and although unloved, it didn’t appear to be dilapidated. The only inclination of this was a slightly crooked curtain rail. I loved the decorative glass panel above the front door. The set dressings were all appropriate and in keeping with the story. The props were well sourced and used by the cast including faded newspapers, older style phone and doctor’s bag.

Costumes: The costumes were good and neutral enough for us not to know when the play was set. There was great attention to detail.

Lighting and Sound Effects: The lighting was effective throughout and well controlled. There was good use of the blue flashing light to indicating a passing emergency vehicle. Special effects were excellent; the ghostly face at the window and pictures apparently falling off the walls.

The Production: Helen Saxton’s skilful direction brought out fully rounded characters as the story was told. Pete Watt as Mr Godley, gave an assured performance and was just right as

the estate agent with a secret. Mary Warrington as the mother in law from hell, Nora, had some great comic moments and sharp wit while sparring with nervy Daphne. Jasmine Mullany as Daphne brought out her character’s flaws with her gestures and Phil Prior as the son/husband, Simon, had just the right amount of empathy and understanding to keep the peace. Completing the cast Teagan O’Brien and George Buckland, appeared briefly as a young couple seeking to rent the house. All the questions were answered in the denouement which brought to an end an evening of suspenseful entertainment.

Chris Horton
District 14 Representative
South East Region and Regional Editor NODA Today,

ODN Review

What a very scary evening we had watching this play near Halloween.

It opened with a setting of an old rather neglected, or should I say dilapidated, Victoria building in the middle of nowhere. It was up for rent. I noticed all the furnishings looked the worse for wear. The estate agent in his white suit (Mr Godley) played by Pete Watt was very convincing. You actually believed he was an estate agent, come counsellor. He asked so many questions of his would-be renters! Simon and Daphne are viewing the house with Simon’s bossy Mother in tow. They are really not sure if this is the place for them – it seems they all have hang ups, especially Daphne. She is slightly depressed and is often bullied by the Mother in law (Nora Patterson), a very believable character portrayed by Mary Warrington. Daphne has no career, and seems a little lost in her life. Nora (the mother-in-law) keeps mentioning her son’s ex-girlfriend who was the perfect wife to be, but she got ditched for Daphne by the son we hear. They are short of money as the son (Simon Patterson), played excellently by Phil Prior, reveals he has lost his job. They are not sure whether to rent this actual house. And they soon notice that Mr Godley is a bit strange, to say the least. He offers drinks, but there is no coffee and tea to hand. Yet he seems to know how they take their drinks and serves them (psychic or what?). They start checking all the doors and windows out of curiosity, then there are many bangs, bumps and doors that will not open. It’s a quirky, spooky house. They soon find out the good, bad, and ugly of the history of the house from the estate agent.

SCARY BITS: We got the impression there was a ghost behind the door at one point (great sound effects) and flickering lights used for effect.

COSTUMES: Good use of modern everyday costumes, I found it hard to guess when the play was set at one point. Attention to detail here. But I always think the phones – mobile or not – give the game away. Setting wise they are all stranded at the house as they had a car accident and swerved to avoid a young boy, but they hit a tree. I started to think why don’t they just use their mobiles and get help? But none of their phones worked, and the landline was dead. The estate agent did produce an old fashioned phone out of his suitcase and make a call. A very funny moment. We soon realised that the house was a halfway house for people who had died suddenly, and they were all due to go to heaven or hell.

PRODUCTION: The play was fast paced and very believable. A great story to act. I felt the pace was conducted by the white suited estate agent and it worked perfectly. Lots of thrills, twists and turns by this very professional cast. This was a short play, nevertheless we still had a 15 minutes or so break to stretch our legs and come back into the land of the living (or not) on this ghostly night.
DURING THE BREAK the director did mention that there were some new young actors in the play and this play did lend itself to small parts.

NEXT THE REVEAL: The final parts of a play, in which the plot is drawn together and matters are exposed when the young couple arrive to view. Teagan O’Brien had a very realistic baby strapped to her which was a nice touch. Then Paul (played by George Buckland) informs us of a memory of a car almost hitting him when he was passing this way many years before. In conversation you then notice that the couple completely ignored the comments made by Simon and his Mother as they cannot see or hear them as of course they are already dead and in ghost format. Life moves on as they say. Maybe ghosts do move amongst us – aargh! I cannot wait for the next production. This was different and innovative, must have been some good casting and directing by Helen Saxton. Well done.