Review: The Haunting Of Blaine Manor

The doors of beautiful Crewe Lyceum opened out tonight, in contrast, onto the eerie frontage of Blaine Manor. The play, written by Joe O’Byrne in 2015, tells of parapsychologist Doctor Roy Earle (Peter Slater), famous for discrediting hauntings and exposing fake mediums, is invited to attend a seance in what is said to be the most haunted building in England.

Unperturbed even by the attitude of the locals who wont set foot in there for fear of a curse, Dr. Earle heads to Blaine Manor aiming to debunk, or offer rationale explanation, for its famous supernatural history. He is not alone and is joined by stage mentalist Cairo (Andrew Yates), medium Scarabus (James Allen) and journalist Vivian (Jo Haydock), all three of which are far less sceptical than Dr Earle himself. They are greeted by the final two cast members’, the representative of Blaine Manor’s owner, Vincent De Lambre (Ed Barry) and faithful butler Grady played by the show’s writer, Joe O’Byrne.

Almost immediately we learn that Dr. Earle was lucky to be at the Manor tonight, his car and belongings landing in the lake upon entering the premises, swerving to avoid a man on horseback. Secondly, the Manor’s owner died in mysterious circumstances, following a seance the night before performed by the enigmatic Cairo. The characters must spend the night in the Manor to uncover its mysteries.

Thus the stage is set for 100 minutes of thrills, jump-scares and a soupçon of “whodunnit”.

From the immediate lights-down the mood was set with an eerie voice in the blackness before curtain up. The set was simple, yet very effective with adornments befitting a mysterious Manor, the stage used to its fullest and the movement of the characters, well orchestrated. A marvellous job was done by Justin Wetherill and David Heald on sound and lighting respectively as that set the mood of the story, the eerie nature and provided the odd jump scare or two!

The first half explores the characters, their backstory and motivations. The pairing of Peter Slater (Dr. Earle) and Jo Haydock (Vivian) was excellent, playing off eachother really well and each playing characters with their own individual problems to deal with, whilst creating a rapport together and attempting to get through the night unscathed. Andrew Yates (Cairo) and James Allen (Scarabus) were fantastic, playing characters who were both enigmatic and eccentric in equal measure. Ed Barry (De Lambre) and Joe O’Byrne (Grady) again fantastically cast and gave the air of gravitas that custodian has and servitude for Butler Grady.

If the first half was the entree, the second half certainly serves the main course as it brings the action to a climactic close. I will have to stop myself from any further divulgence should the plot be spoiled in any way, other than to say that it ends with mouth open as the tale and twists unfold.

Excellently written and directed by Joe O’Byrne, this is one of the plays from a series ‘Tales From Paradise Heights’, it flows beautifully, moving forward at a methodic pace befitting a thriller, whilst the eerie crescendo of anticipation is building for its dramatic climax. There was even some room in there for some clever puns and one-liners.

It’s a brilliant piece and would recommend that you book tickets and go an see this before its final performance this Saturday (includes a second matinee performance). Details can be found here or on the Lyceum website here.