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Garrick Rep Company launch new show in Lichfield

Richard O'Callaghan, Dominic Hecht and Christopher Timothy

Richard O'Callaghan, Dominic Hecht and Christopher Timothy

The team behind the sell-out success of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? is heading back to Lichfield to present the latest in the Garrick Rep company’s run of contemporary classics. I caught up with the play’s director Andrew Hall and his cast to find out what audiences can expect this time.

The answer is Haunting Julia by Alan Ayckbourn, famous for his comedies and one of Britain’s most popular and successful playwrights. But it turns out that what’s different about this play is that although it’s a gentle comedy, it’s also a chilling ghost story as well.

Already intrigued, I asked Andrew to say more.  He told me:

“It’s a disturbing play about a young musical prodigy all set for stardom – until she’s found dead in a pool of blood. Twelve years on her father Joe is still tortured by not knowing if this was suicide, or murder.”

Learning that it’s been compared to the long-running chiller The Woman In  Black I was really getting intrigued now. How is it spooky, I asked. Is it truly supernatural –  or does the spookiness come from the reactions of its characters to a dark situation?

Andrew wasn’t giving too much away. He said:

“It’s a whodunnit, a mystery that links loss to love, and a genuinely scary ghost story. It’s about three people with secrets. It takes place in real time over 110 minutes and it really is convincingly spooky. I fell in love with the play when I first read it, I actually felt the hairs rise on the back of my neck. This is by a writer at the peak of his powers.”

Fellow cast member Dominic Hecht chipped in:

“How does the play work? It’s all about relationships, and that creates a real emotional engagement with the audience. And the full truth is left until the last few pages.”

Christopher Timothy, star of Doctors and the BBC’s long-running All Creatures Great and Small told me:

“There’s an Ayckbourn renaissance going on at the moment. And this is one of his most powerful plays. Audiences bring their own contribution to the theatre; don’t underestimate the power of the imagination!

“That’s what creates the atmosphere between actors and audience, so even a door slamming can have a tremendous emotional effect. Prepare to be scared! We’re really looking forward to working with Andrew,” he added. “His job is simply helping us be as good as we can be.”

I left the Garrick looking forward to cracking the mystery for myself when I see  this new play that’s already got me intrigued.

Haunting Julia also stars West End and Shakespearean actor Richard O’Callaghan, and runs in the Garrick Studio from October 14 to 30 with a variety of matinee and evening performances. Tickets are £15 (£10 for students) and can be booked by calling the box office on 01543 412121 or online at

Phil Preece

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