Scared To Death:

A ghost story
From an idea by Sally Hughes

The year is 1857.  Will Nicholls, the owner of Nicholls Flour Mill, is an inveterate gambler.
Desperately in debt he raises the stakes at the weekly poker game.
The fate of his livelihood, his Mill, and his marriage, now rests on the turn of a card.
The result of this card game leads to a story of betrayal, murder and revenge.

With ‘tricks and illusions’ created by internationally renowned magician Paul Daniels,
prepare to be taken on a journey of ‘ghostly goings-on’, and prepare to be,…….’scared to death!’

World Premiere production presented by
The Mill at Sonning Theatre, 13th September to 27th October 2012

Steven Pinder, Nick Waring, Naomi Cranston, Conor Sheridan, Matthew Wynn.

Review – Scared To Death
The Mill at Sonning Theatre

Oxford Times – Thursday 4th October 2012

Connoisseurs of the macabre will find entertainment to their taste in the spooky new offering at the Mill at Sonning dinner theatre.

Scared To Death, an original new play with a plot suggested in part by the theatre’s Thames-side location, succeeds remarkably well in putting the frighteners on audiences, which is a more difficult job than is commonly supposed.

Building on an idea by the Mill’s boss Sally Hughes, the practised writer and director Ron Aldridge offers a gripping, well handled ghost story whose impact is heightened by stage effects devised by the conjurer Paul Daniels.
A felicitous touch in the play is the use of one character who is both a participant in, and a commentator on, the action.  Making a narrator of Clem Watkins (the excellent Steven Pinder) lends the drama something of the impact Mark Gatiss supplies to Radio 4’s The Man in Black tales, while the power of story itself – and I do not exaggerate in the compliment – fully equals that of Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black.

The plot is a deceptively simple one.  Young mill owner Will Nichols (Conor Sheridan) woos and weds lovely local girl Mary (Naomi Cranston) to the fury of his best friend Jacob Ford (Nick Waring) whose earlier love for her went unrequited.

Taking advantage of Will’s weakness for gambling, the now bitterly jealous Ford embarks on a plan to try and win from him both the Mill and later, it’s mistress.

Doors and windows open unaided, books and ornaments fly from shelves, terrifying knockings emerge from behind the locked doors of a cellar……

This haunted house, brilliantly designed by Tony Eden, can be visited at your peril till October 28th.

Christopher Gray

Review - ‘Scared To Death’
The Stage - 14th September 2012

The proof of the title is in the silence of the audience, broken only by occasional nervous laughter.  Set in 1857 in a working mill on the River Thames in Berkshire, the exact location of the present theatre, we are gripped from the very start.  Conor Sheridan plays the Mill’s owner Will Nichols, an inveterate gambler with plans to wed his longstanding girlfriend Mary, sensitively played by Naomi Cranston, who has already caught the eye of Will’s best friend Jacob Ford.  Nick Waring’s portrayal of the seemingly friendly Jacob, with designs on the Mill as well as Mary, is totally convincing.

This is where author Ron Aldridge delivers his master stroke.  Steven Pinder, seemingly a family friend Clem Watkins, is also the narrator, a device that works extremely well, thanks to Pinder’s excellence.

The explanation of the death of Will’s parents in an accident, the flashback to the moment Will loses the Mill in a game of poker, followed by the fatal row between the past and present owner of the Mill, would have taken far too long.  As it was, we soon progress to banging and screams from the Mill’s locked cellar with Mary desperately trying to open the door.


Artistic director Sally Hughes, whose family bought the present Mill in 1977, came up with the original idea, asked Ron Aldridge to write and direct it and hired magician Paul Daniels to design the special effects, resulting in an extraordinary piece of theatre.

Sheila Tracy
Author/Director:  Ron Aldridge