Cameron Foster’s ‘The House On The Edge Of Innocence’ Chills Spines at Television Workshop

Murdered children, lesbian ghosts, the sixth member of The Five? Zombified Tory, high camp 1950s theatre queens, and all manner of things that go bump in the night! 

What appeared at first glance as the tried-and-tested theatrical archetype – a group of curious teenagers solving mysteries between homework assignments – developed into an intricate tale woven of taboo love, occult homoeroticism, and eternal damnation. 

The play was presented by the BAFTA award-winning Television Workshop in partnership with Nottingham Trent University’s theatre design course. Television Workshop has been the starting-gun to the careers of some of the most talented and well-known actors and writers to come out of the Midlands. Including its patron Samantha Morton, Joe Dempsie, Vicky McClure, and Jack O’Connell.

‘The House On The Edge Of Innocence’ was written and directed by Cameron Foster, and the set was designed by recent Trent graduate James Fisher. The set looked battered, decayed, and showed absolutely no signs of interior design or Feng Sui – and in that sense achieved it’s purpose flawlessly. Rickety, run-down, ramshackle realness! A truly spine-chilling setting.

The sound design was crafted and executed to a high standard and maintained an eldritch atmosphere throughout the play. The actors were well-cast, although some parts were doubled up so I didn’t get to see the full range of talent (you’ll find a full list of the cast at the end).

Well-written and well-constructed. From beginning to end. Stage left to stage right. Attention was paid to detail. Foster’s precision extended so far as to account for diversity and inclusion on both inter-dimensional and temporal levels! The triangular-shaped stage, flanked on two sides by the gripped spectators (or captives I suppose), lured the audience into the decrepit and forbidding Mendrick Manor like sailors to sirens. 

Transitions between scenes were smooth and fluid, accompanied by an eerie instrumental selection of ‘Now! That’s What I Call Music’ RnB hits from the early 2000s! This complimented the generation-specific, meme-oriented, and oftentimes dead-pan humour which cut the tension in an otherwise hair-raising spectacle. 

‘The House On The Edge Of Innocence’ addresses many timeless complexities of the coming of age. At what point do we lose our innocence? Which parts of your childish self do we shed and which do we nurture? This play captures the entanglement experienced in the struggle of adolescent identity, and takes on different aspects of queerness in this setting. ‘The House On The Edge Of Innocence’ further examines the potential drawbacks of teenage ghost-busting, trespassing, and urban exploration in 21st Century Britain.

Coerced by Miller (played by Harvey Thornhill-Smith) into one last ghoul-bashing adventure, the rest of the gang (minus Scooby and the Mystery Machine) agreed to uncover the sinister forces behind the haunting of Mendrick Manor. 

Miller’s girlfriend, Jessie (Ruby Thompson), struggles throughout the play with his hot-headedness and bi-curiosity, while Miller himself struggles with denial on multiple levels. Through a series of flashbacks and awkward conversations, it becomes clear there’s a wedge in their relationship – and his name is Isaac (Kieran Burton). There’s only so much a person with such moral character can stand before they eventually lose to the gay agenda.

Isaac was my favourite member of the Five, although that could have more to do with projection than anything else. He was relatable, you know? Rum, check. Sultry eyebrow communication, check. Dry and aggressive sense of humour to disguise disappointment and trauma, check. Chasing ‘straight’ boys with cheekbones but no backbone, check.

We all know at least one dude who struggled between their sexuality and their outright disgust in themselves. Not to mention the fear of what it means – socially and politically – to be openly queer.

‘The House On The Edge Of Innocence’ examines this (often overlooked) part of adolescence, where (otherwise) heterosexual males can develop a deeper attachment to their best friend than their girlfriend. What complicates this even further is the added caveat of the best friend being gay, and platonic attachment that can so easily turn into (or certainly be understood as) a romantic or sexual relationship. However brief. It happens all the time.

As the play advances, Jessie’s step-brother Dre (Shy-Diaz Marquis) finds out she’s been put in an impossible position after finding out her mum (Beth Edwards) is cheating on Dre’s father. I can’t imagine how I would respond in such a situation, but Jessie is clearly torn between protecting her mother and the rest of the family’s feelings, and telling the truth. Mendrick Manor makes the decision for her.

So far the house has broken up a relatively strained relationship and exposed an affair. This has worn down the trust our heroes have for each other and at a time when they’re most in danger. And I mean, poor Jessie, right? Meanwhile the fifth member of the Five, Eve (Amy Keen), feels undervalued and overlooked. She joined the gang after they eventually outwitted her alter-ego as the Twilight Witch, though the others seem to forget her particular talents and penchant for the esoteric. Perhaps Eve could find redemption in her own spin-off, Paranormally Blonde?

The Five encounter a myriad of spirits during the play, including the unnaturally optimistic phantom, Ma Lou (Emma Buesnel) and the sixth member of the Five, the Boy Edwin Merschel (Jude Forsey), who help the Five escape Mendrick Manor, but not before they discover what’s really going on. The house plays games with the Five. Cat and mouse. Divide and conquer. Divide et impera! Perdidit in aeternum manerii!

The Five must use their wit and detective skills or face being lost for eternity in the Manor! It’s almost as if there’s a Prime Mover of sorts, a puppet master if you will, a spin doctor if it so pleases you, a puller of strings if that’s complaisant…

Enter Donald and Douglas.

Gagged. Utterly ridiculous, fabulously extravagant, charmingly unreasonable. These two really stole the show for me. Donald (Ash Drew) and Douglas (Finlay Watkinson) treated the audience to interludes of wheezing as they flounced across the stage pontificating as they went. The words flamboyant and haughty cannot do them justice!

The play, whilst comedic, became increasingly intense and darker as it went on. It was during the second act the sinister forces behind the mysterious hauntings and deaths at Mendrick Manor came sharply into focus. Half-Frankenstein, half-Etonian, Mr Candle (Jack Dewick) awoke. His designs on claiming the youthful souls of our heroes, one by one, soon manifested with the suicide of the local school bully, Mitch (Jack Hayes), who had internalised homophobia despite clearly having a stick up his arse. Another caricature familiar to every queer.

I hope to see this play propelled further onto a bigger stage with larger audiences, although the charm of a small theatre suited the intended atmosphere. Cameron Foster, Miss Foster if you’re nasty, I see you! I personally cannot wait for what you have next in store. Equally, I’m certain we’ll be seeing more great things from the cast and the crew as they progress with their careers. Overall, ‘The House On The Edge Of Innocence’ proved to be a profound and harrowing journey. And I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. Thank you, and congratulations!

Television Workshop


Harvey Thornhill-Smith, Kieran Burton, Amy Keen, Georgia Booker, Ruby Thompson, Abigail Rayns, Shy-Diaz Marquis, Jack Hayes, Jude Forsey, Emma Buesnel, Ash Drew, Finlay Watkinson, Jack Dewick, Bill Jones, Georgia Booker, and Beth Edwards.


Writer & Director: Cameron Foster. Designer: James Fisher. Production Assistants: Sarah Feasey and Ben Welch. Sound Design: Ben Riley. Lighting Operation: Ruben Lawlor-Leckie. Dramaturg:  Siobhan Cannon-Brownlie. Producer: Nic Harvey. Construction: Ivy Richards. Scenic Artists:  Sarah Feasey, Felicity Walsh-Mangham, Zuzanna Wajda, Emma Bullman, Camelia Kellerman, and PJ Chan.

Photos: Television Workshop

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