The Haunting of Hill House, an adaptation of the 1959 novel by Shirley Jackson, is proving a critical and popular success at the Liverpool Playhouse: the Guardian review loved the play’s ‘unsettling suggestion we can only save ourselves – because we are all alone in the dark’. Jackson’s novel is a student favourite on our third-year ‘Vamps and Villians: Exploring Gothic Literature’ module, and on 10th December 2015 LJMU English’s Sonny Kandola gave a talk exploring that text in terms of the female Gothic, domestic trauma and neurosis. Ruminating on Jackson’s own tortured life, she linked the breakdown of the central character, Eleanor, to the anxieties around women’s social role exploded by Betty Friedan’s 1963 sociological study The Feminine Mystique. Sonny traced the symbolism of the (Gothic) house in the American psyche back to work of Edgar Allen Poe, explaining how the house had been used to represent fears about political legitimacy in a comparatively young nation and anxieties about the dead hand of the past that the ghost in the novel represents. Afterwards, Sonny and a group of students from the module watched the play itself.
Sonny said, ‘I really enjoyed the play, particularly its innovative staging and disorientating use of sound and light’. She noted that the best line in Jackson’s amazing novel remains, for her, its first: ‘No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality’…..You can watch the trailer on the Everyman Playhouse website here. And remember that LJMU students can book tickets at the Playhouse (and Everyman) for only £5
with their student cards.