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Olivia Williams stars in this chilling audio play from 45North


Review: THE YOU PLAY VOLUME TWO: THE HAUNTED WOMAN, Soundcloud In the second part of 45North's series of 'The You Play', The Haunted Woman is the latest intriguing audio offering by Rafaella Marcus. The 'you' in the title invites the audience to participate, to become involved and immersed in the eerie story as it develops. The result is an atmospheric and increasingly gripping fifty minutes that will disturb, alarm, but ultimately frustrate.

A woman alone in a house is recording a message for her husband to find on a Dictaphone. It quickly becomes clear that she is frightened and deeply troubled about an unspecified malign presence that may appear at any time. She urgently wants him to follow her directions to make a little shadow puppet along with her, as she believes it might help to save him. These puppets develop into something much more disturbing than benign toys.

While she waits, she touches on memories of her relationship with her husband; from their first meeting, to the peaks and troughs of his career as a musician and how their marriage disintegrates as they become increasingly distant. As she talks, her panic and agitation increases and the listener becomes increasingly unnerved.

The ever-reliable Olivia Williams is very convincing as the anxious narrator; her shifting perspectives and subjects clearly show the tumult in her mind. She prolongs some of the silences much longer than is comfortable, pushing the listener to hang on to hear what comes next. Her tone varies widely, from wistful reminiscence about the way her husband held his beer to tortured whispering as her alarm increases.

Dinah Mullen's excellent sound design is highly effective, using subtle scratches, static and sudden aural distortions to really make the listeners' skin prickle. Her use of ominous music is also very well-judged and enhances the immersive qualities of the production.

This is not a classic ghost story in the respect that you are never quite sure if the narrator is actually frightened of the creaks in the house or if they are a manifestation of her mental turmoil. Is she in genuine danger or is she having some sort of breakdown?

The play touches on many themes such as loneliness and relationship anxiety which demonstrate where the unsettled mind of the narrator may come from. Marcus' gives tantalising hints of the sinister presence of the shadows both in the narrator's mind and in the physical space, creating an absorbing experience for listeners.

It is common for ghost stories to remain open-ended, but in this case, it feels frustrating that little conclusion at all is offered. It leaves the listener in more of a limbo, rather than feeling intrigued or pensive at the end.

That said, The Haunted Woman is a genuinely evocative audio play exploring the unravelling of both a relationship and of an individual's mind. An immersive and discomforting way to spend an hour.

The You Play Volume Two: The Haunted Woman is available on Soundcloud

Photo Credit: 45North

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