The House on Cold Hill/Malvern Theatres

ARCH spine-tingler Peter James has wisely acknowledged that the classic ghost story needed a revamp… and the proof that he’s succeeded in his mission is here for all to see.

And, come to think of it, to hear as well. For this thriller chiller from the man who created his very own ‘dead’ zone has come up with a real bowel-melter that blends sight and sound in a genuinely scary tale of the unexpected.

James rightly suspects that technology will sooner – rather than later – solve Mankind’s centuries-old fascination with the spirit world and notions of a hereafter.

Consequently, he presents us with the nerdy Chris (Charlie Clements) a computer geek who may not be all he seems.

He’s doing work for Ollie (Joe McFadden) and his wife Caro (Rita Simons) who have just moved into the slightly predictable crumbling mansion they laughably believe will be their ‘forever’ home.

But things start to go wrong right from the start, matters not being helped by their shouty teenage daughter Jade (Persephone Swales-Dawson) who may well be an unwilling conduit for the malignant entity lurking in an upstairs room.

So far, so bad – and it does indeed get a lot, lot worse.

Presenting a ghost story onstage nowadays is a major task, thanks to a public that is desensitised on a daily basis by news reports of real-life horrors and the current chattering classes’ addiction to the ‘noir’ genre.

Yet James’ writing is neurotically compelling and disturbingly original. He not only seems to accept pre-ordained destiny as a fact of life and death, but also appears to believe that the gathering momentum of present-day technological advances may soon lead to solving the mysteries of supernatural phenomena.

Interestingly, he works into the plot the presence of the village ‘wise woman’ Annie, played with glorious fading hippy chic by Tricia Deighton.

Directed with great pace by Ian Talbot, the drama reaches a cacophonous climax as the Fates take control over helpless victims of circumstance from which there is no escape.

The House on Cold Hill is a blood-freezer in the best traditions and, like all good theatre, leaves you deep in thought long after the curtain has come down. It runs until Saturday (February 23).

John Phillpott