AN HISTORIC Exeter house will provide the backdrop to a chilling adaptation of a classic horror tale.
The remake of Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde will be performed at Poltimore House this month by Exeter-based Four of Swords Theatre.
The production was highly acclaimed when review shows were staged at the property in May, in particular critics loved the innovative use of the dilapidated and creepy location.
The show was a sell-out and it now returns for another run of 12 performances from October 10 to 19.
Poltimore House is a crumbling but stunning stately home, originally the residence of the Bampfylde family. In the 20th century it became a school and then a hospital before falling into a state of chronic disrepair, not helped by arson and extensive looting.
The interiors, gutted, skeletal echoes of their former magnificence, offer the perfect venue for the staging of this Gothic classic.
Simon Tootell, visitor services manager at Poltimore, said they were delighted the property would be playing host to the play again.
"The production of Jekyll and Hyde brings an opportunity for the derelict fabric of Poltimore House to again play a unique role in what has already been one of the most successful productions ever staged on site," he added. "The feedback from the previews in May was spectacular."
Audiences are led through various rooms of the house while the story unfolds around them. Of particular interest is the surgery, preserved since Poltimore's tenure as a hospital, that now becomes Dr Jekyll's laboratory. As well as the actors' live performance, short films that complement the action are projected on to the vast white walls of the house.
Co-producer and director Sarah White said: "We've designed a show which is faithful to the source material but inventive and eclectic.
"For example, we shot short films that help move the action on using the same actors, and the show itself has some bloody special effects and make-up designs inspired by Japanese kabuki theatre.
"A gypsy folk band provides live musical accompaniment."
Philip Kingslan John, Sarah's co-producer who also stars in the twin roles of Jekyll and Hyde, agrees: "The intimate nature of each performance is crucial to its success," he said. "For this reason, audience numbers are deliberately kept small."
Poltimore House was saved from destruction in 2000 by English Heritage and East Devon District Council, and was a finalist in the 2003 BBC television series Restoration. Its renovation is now being co-ordinated by the Poltimore House Trust.
A percentage of the money raised from tickets sales for Jekyll and Hyde will go towards this project.
Tickets are on sale now, and advanced booking is recommended because of the limited size of each audience. Warm jumpers, coats and sturdy footwear are also strongly advised.
The show has been deemed slightly too spooky for those under the age of 11. Ticket details on 01392 248938 and www.four-of-swords.com