Two Interpretations of the Enfield Poltergeist Gracing English Theatres

The Enfield poltergeist case, which captivated the British media from 1977 to 1979, is set to enchant theatre audiences 45 years later with two plays centred on it. Paul Voodini’s “The Enfield Poltergeist” has been showcased at various fringe events throughout the year. In contrast, “The Enfield Haunting”, penned by Paul Unwin and featuring Catherine Tate and David Threlfall, is slated for a West End debut in November.

The story’s allure lies in its ordinary setting. Voodini recalls the uproar during the events, noting the uniqueness of the supernatural occurrences happening in a regular council house rather than a stereotypical haunted mansion. The incidents, centred around sisters Margaret and Janet Hodgson, were so relatable that they could be imagined occurring in any home.

However, the journey to the stage wasn’t without its challenges. Voodini and co-star Kiera Rhodes were taken aback when Unwin’s West End production, “The Enfield Haunting”, was announced. Despite the initial shock, Voodini saw the potential benefits, hoping that the larger production would generate increased interest in the topic, benefiting both plays.

Unwin’s inspiration for his play came from a meeting with Guy Lyon Playfair, one of the original Enfield ghosthunters. The narrative’s appeal, according to Unwin, is its grounding in reality, focusing on a working-class family under various pressures, some of which manifest as poltergeists.

John Brant, the producer of “The Enfield Haunting”, has a personal connection to the story, hailing from Enfield himself. He recalls the local significance of the tale, with many visiting Green Street to glimpse the infamous house. Brant believes that the family’s working-class background and the mother’s single status played a role in the media’s portrayal and potential exploitation of the events.

Both plays delve deep into the psychology of the characters involved, offering a blend of ghostly occurrences and human drama. While the stories are rooted in the supernatural, they also explore the real challenges faced by the characters.

As for the two productions, there’s mutual respect. Voodini eagerly anticipates watching “The Enfield Haunting”, believing that each play will offer a unique perspective on the Enfield events.

The Enfield Poltergeist will be showcased at the Tsitsit fringe festival in London from 13-15 November. Meanwhile, The Enfield Haunting will be staged at Brighton Theatre Royal from 14-18 November, Richmond theatre from 21-25 November, and Ambassadors theatre in London from 30 November to 2 March.

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