The Haunting of Susan A
Rating: ★★★
Venue: King's Head Theatre, London
Cast: Suzanne Ahmet and Mark Ravenhill

Drawing on the traditions of a classic ghost story, Kings Head Theatre’s artistic director Mark Ravenhill prepares to share the story of London’s oldest pub theatre. But there are other stories and other memories hidden in the space. Echoes of a trauma from the past are pushing to manifest on stage.

Engrained within the fabric of North London’s creative culture for over 50 years, The Haunting of Susan A is a site responsive piece that invites you to become a part of local history. Gather round, let us share our story…

The King's Head Theatre has been around for just over 50 years, but yesterday was my first visit. The theatre itself is a small room in the back of a pub, which seats just over 100 people. The setting is perfect for a ghost story retelling. It's intimate, with just enough lighting to set the atmosphere of the piece.

Mark Ravenhill, who is also the writer of this play, is our narrator for the production. His passion for theatre shines through as he tells us the history of the theatre we're sitting in, and how it's changed over the years. He tells us that this room was once an illegal boxing ring where men would fight until one become unconscious, the room overflowing with the "dense smell of sweat, the tang of freshly spilled blood". 

While Mark is part way through our history lesson, an audience member interjects and tells us we need to know the truth about this place. And the reason why it's been haunted by a young woman for many years. She begins to tell us the story of how she landed her first acting role in this theatre. And how she eventually learned of the actress before her. The actress who swiftly took her own life once rehearsals had begun. The actress had said she had seen a ghost...

I think it's important to leave the plot at that, and let Susan (Suzanne Ahmet) tell you the rest of the story herself. Susan tells us how she became obsessed with this spirit, and finding out everything she could about her, no matter how dangerous it became.

Suzanne's storytelling is intense and captivating. She plays all of the characters within her story, and does so convincingly. With a range of accents and genders, the effortlessness with which she does is it impressive, to say the least. Ravenhill told me after the production that he had written the play to be performed by Suzanne, and with her talent, that was hardly surprising to hear. 

This ghost story is compelling and of course, you can expect a jump scare or two throughout the piece. If you're not comfortable with unexpected blackouts and sound effects, this may not be the show for you.

The scenes between Mark and Susan feel authentic, and as though the characters are just meeting for the first time. While the storyline itself wasn't quite as haunting as I would have liked (I am a horror junkie, after all!), it was gripping, and even left me feeling emotional at times. 

The theatre itself really is at the centre of this production, and it serves as the perfect celebration to London's oldest pub theatre. I would highly recommend seeing The Haunting of Susan A, if not for Suzanne's outstanding performance alone. It's an intense, and intimate 60 minutes of storytelling, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The Haunting of Susan A is currently running at The King's Head Theatre until June 26th. You can book tickets here.

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