Haunted Child was a disappointingly poor offering from the Royal Court. Joe Pentall’s play is a very bizarre and flawed study of a fictional spiritual/ religious/ scientific cult. Before attending, I was terrified at the prospect of a ghost story about a child, a narrative that would usually deeply affect me, however this play lacks any kind of thrilling effects, and the play’s title bears little resemblence to the script and production.
A man, Douglas, returns home unexpectedly to his confused wife and son. He is disorientated and a mess, his teeth have been knocked out and his hair falls lank and dirty, worse still he cannot explain fully where and why he has been away, without word, for so long. His poor, anxious and upset wife, Julie is utterly bewildered and their son, Thomas very disturbed. Gradually details of Douglas’ new group become known, a ridiculous cult of students and mentors who camp in a disused building chatting about science and spirituality. Unfortunately the facts just don’t add up, and when Douglas begins insisting his son is in fact his reincarnated father, I couldn’t help but snigger in disbelief.
Sophie Okonedo is said to be a brilliant actress, indeed I’ve seen her on stage before and she impressed me, but here she falls flat, unable to muster any intensity in the role of Julie. I must admit however that I felt deeply unsettled by Ben Daniel’s portrayal of delusional dad, Douglas, and so here the acting should be given some merit. I felt angered and frustrated by this man, though the poor script sometimes made his character laughable and ridiculous.
I was tempted to leave at the interval, not because I hated the play, but because it entirely lacked believability, but I stayed desperate to see an improvement in the second half, alas it did not come. It is a sad, portentous play for Christmas, and not worth wasting the time to see.
Haunted Child continues until 14 January at the Royal Court, visit the website here.