A ghost story set in an 18th century gothic-style house might appear, at first, not for the faint-hearted.
But do not fear, The Sign of the Strawberry is a fun tale and a not too terror-inducing promenade experience although with the occasional plunge into darkness and “ghosts” appearing out of the shadows it is not completely tame either.
Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill House at Twickenham is the setting and the main character in the play is the ghost of Horace himself.
The son of Britain’s first Prime Minister, Robert Walpole, Horace converted what was originally just a couple of cottages into his “little gothic castle” with battlements and arched windows on the outside and gilded ceilings and fireplaces within.
The basic plot of the Sign of the Strawberry is not new -– an orphan “Hero” has to spend a night in a haunted bedchamber after which he will learn something to his advantage. However the experience of moving through the house and the quality of the acting gives so much more.
During the course of the play you learn about life at Strawberry Hill and there is reference to, and a short reading from, Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, widely looked at as the first gothic novel.
As you are led through the rooms you can't help wonder about the personality of the man that created this gothic masterpiece. We were left wanting more and pledging to return in the daylight for another look.
The House opens to the public for self-guided tours on Saturday 31 March.
Read more about Strawberry Hill house and see a selection of photos from our visit in 2010.