By Abbie Priestley, 4th November 2016

Review: An Improvised Phantasmagoria (A Haunting Experience at Winterbourne House)

As the nights draw in and things get spookier, Culture Critic Abbie Priestley heads over to Winterbourne House and Gardens to be thoroughly frightened by Foghorn Unscripted and their Phantasmagoria

Is it a show? Is it a play(ne)? No, it’s a Phantasmagoria! Which doesn’t explain a great deal… but it was definitely a fun evening! It was already cold and dark when we arrived at Winterbourne House on Friday night, the gardens and foliage only adding to that eerie sense of isolation.  Ushered in to the warmth and bribed with a glass of prosecco (I know your game), we were invited to mingle with our fellow victims before being divided into groups and led into separate rooms to await our fate.

… a kind of ghost tour and murder mystery hybrid performance…

What took place was a kind of ghost tour and murder mystery hybrid performance, involving five different rooms of the house. In the first room our guide helped us to evoke a connection with the ‘other side’, and I hope you don’t mind getting up close and personal because this necessitated a circle-of-protection and a sociable bit of hand holding. Rest assured also that it is not beyond the guide to try to give you a bit of a shock every now and then, just to make those hands a little more sweaty.

… our contributions changed the outcome of the show…

Having established a connection with ‘Daisy’, a kitchen servant who had met a violent end, we wondered into the nursery (and into the past), where the Improv-pros of Foghorn Unscripted performed a sequence of scenes wherein we could see the last few days of ‘Daisy’s’ life, and the evil brutality of the house master. Though in some rooms we mainly stood on as voyeurs, in others the team were more interactive. The hallucinations of the Lady of the manor, in her illness, allowed her to banter with the “spirits” in her room. In fact, our contributions changed the outcome of the show, when we decided to help her “escape”.

The actors, the lighting, the special effects, all combined to make this a spooky but also humorously entertaining evening…

The improvised nature of the show meant that there were a few continuity errors or parts of the plot which could have been explained better. But in fairness, the troupe were dealing with multiple groups at the same time, and there were no awkward silences – other than those intended to strain our nerves – so hats off to them! The actors, the lighting, the special effects, all combined to make this a spooky but also humorously entertaining evening. As an added bonus, it was also a fantastic excuse for both us and the cast to explore Winterbourne House! Foghorn Unscripted themselves were perfectly lovely, and were happy to have a drink and chat with everyone afterwards. Though this was their first year in this event, I truly hope they continue it for next year!

Read the full original review by Abbie Priestley.