On a strip of land by the coast, the wind blowing and the restless water churning, the tall building stands, the lights within the only promise of warmth. In his study, playwright Jack Travis drinks steadily to open his mind to the supposed presences within the castle in hopes it will serve as a sinister muse to his next project.
Having relocated from London with his daughter Bee following the West End success of his last production his ambition is to create a site-specific immersive theatrical experience, a tourist attraction which will serve as guest house and playhouse if he can lure in the audiences.
The premise laid out in the history of the castle, it was home to Laird Mackay whose son shamed him in front of guests by claiming that his mother was the maid; the son bricked up in the cellar without food or water, the maid was later found dead at the foot of the stairs, that same maid whose great-granddaughter now lives just down the road from the castle.
Directed by brothers Fionn and Toby Watts and filmed in Freswick Castle near the most northerly tip of mainland Scotland, the world premiere of Playhouse was FrightFest’s Saturday matinee, but while the central location is beautifully shot in candlelight and the surrounding countryside is suitably bleak, ironically for a film about a writer it is their own script which lets them down badly.
The production values exemplary for a low-budget film and the ensemble never holding back in their performances, the tenuous story pinned to Jack’s murder board is an after-dinner spooky story of five minutes telling and with no further twists the progression of isolated writer and squabbling family to homicidal urges shines far less than is needed to support ninety minutes.
Driven by his artistic temperament to rages and doubts as Jack, William Holstead duly provides his best Byronic posturing on the shingle and in his chambers, while Grace Courtney’s Bee drifts endlessly and aimlessly through the halls and up and down stone staircases; Jack’s agent, calling from London, is the sole voice of sanity, quite reasonably asking who is actually going to fund this theatrical spectacle or pay to see it.