The Enfield Haunting is a good old-fashioned horror show that wants to be a documentary as well. It’s based on a hocus-pocus yarn that made the front page of the Daily Mirror in 1977 and was swiftly forgotten. The play opens in an Enfield terrace that resembles a bomb site, complete with charred plasterwork, missing walls and ripped out floorboards. Peggy, a harassed housewife played by Catherine Tate, is struggling to cope with three teenage brats and a ghost that’s got loose in her home. Two ghosts, in fact. Peggy’s daughter, Janet, has been possessed by a demonic spirit that forces her to rasp out nonsense in a hoarse, throaty gurgle, like that annoying girl from The Exorcist. And there’s a mischief-making poltergeist who acts like a disgruntled caretaker, fusing the lights, thumping the furniture, vandalising the gas fire and rattling the tea service.
But Peggy’s problems have only just started. Rey from next door likes dropping by to loiter in the sitting room near the teenage kids, especially the girls. Shades of Jimmy Savile here, although the drama doesn’t explore Rey’s jailbait fetishes. A second intruder arrives, Mr Gross, who owns a lot of extremely expensive audio equipment which he uses to record the two ghosts as they toss the crockery around and honk out horrible insults through Janet’s sore throat. It’s never clear who invited Mr Gross to stick his microphones all over the house. Then a third ghost joins the gang: a bald old codger with an ashen face keeps strolling across the room whenever the light bulbs blow and darkness descends.
The show contains enough bangs, flashes and nasty surprises to delight fans of the horror genre. But the storyline is impossible to follow because the basic set up isn’t properly explained and the knotty script is crowded with references to people such as ‘Mr Fairplay’ and ‘the Brazilians’ who don’t ever appear on stage.