Presented by: PW Productions LTD
Directed by: Robin Herford
Adapted by: Stephen Mallatratt from the novel by: Susan Hill
Arthur Kipps wants the story to be told. He takes his manuscript to the theatre and with the help of an actor begins rehearsals of the true events of his past and the woman in black.
Still touring after 25 years The Woman In Black, adapted from the novel by Susan Hill, is a ghost story with sharp shocks and eerie shadows. The show within a show follows Arthur Kipps, the writer of a story he is desperate to tell, and an actor who helps him tell it as they rehearse in an empty theatre.
The rehearsals show the two working out how to tell the tale, and creating a performer out of Kipps, while telling the actual tale as they perform the scenes. Lighting signals the changes from one to the other as the two parts intercut throughout, a clever strategy to prevent a static experience and build up tension however for me it had the opposite effect and the tension failed to build at all. The lighting is effectively used to create wonderful shadows and a sense of anticipation, slightly too heavy handed at times but effective all the same. The sound, while excellent, was not subtle at all and was the main way of creating the big shocks, along with the sudden appearances and quick movements of the woman in black, that had the audience creating a wonderful array of screams and gasps. Even as someone who is not startled by these tactics I enjoyed them and their effect on those around me. There are also some subtleties within the performance, though I would have liked to have seen more to create a more insidious atmosphere.
The jarring yet fond relationship between Kipps and the actor is established instantly and develops throughout. Matt Connor is excellent as the enthusiastic actor while Malcolm James plays the haunted lawyer with humour and restraint. I was slightly confused by the fact a pair of glasses suddenly turned the awful actor Kipps into an excellent one, this could have been a slightly more gradual occurrence, however this point pushed the performance and it became less stilted from that point on.
The Woman In Black is an enjoyable performance with clever tactics and a gothic air, ending on the ‘twist’ felt abrupt however as it was glaringly obvious from quite early on, still a very enjoyable night at the theatre.