THE WOMAN IN BLACK
by Susan Hill adapted by Stephen Mallatratt.
Tour to 15 June 2013.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
Review: Alan Geary 15 October at Theatre Royal Nottingham.
Tremendous entertainment – and it makes you scream. But there’s more to it.
At one level – and this isn’t a put-down – Woman in Black is like a ride at Alton Towers: it’s tremendous entertainment and it makes you scream. But there’s a lot more to it than that.
As a young man, Arthur Kipps (Julian Forsyth) was despatched from foggy London to examine the papers of a recently deceased old lady who had lived alone in a mansion, an isolated pile at the end of a causeway on the north-east coast. There he encountered supernatural phenomena which were to blight the rest of his life.
In Stephen Mallatratt’s stage adaptation of the Susan Hill novel Kipps as an older man, in the hope of coming to terms with his tragedy, recounts his story to a younger man, an actor (Antony Eden).
It’s a cleverly constructed, highly meta-theatrical piece. The audience is watching two plays simultaneously: the ghost story involving the young solicitor, and the tale of two men in an empty theatre rehearsing it as a play for presentation later – the actor takes on the solicitor as a young man; the older man handles all the other parts.
Each of the actors – both Forsyth and Eden are first-class – has to be cast to resemble the other in build; but there’s a splendid contrast between the bumbling diffidence of the one and the breezy self-confidence of the other.
Much of the text – whether from Susan Hill or Mallatrat – has a measured, classical ring to it; elements of the play self-consciously, and amusingly, lean on Dickens, Wilkie Collins and Wells. And there’s even a nod in the direction of Hitchcock. A multi-locational set, which recedes to the back of the stage, is outstanding; so are sound and special effects, and the all-important lighting.
This is authentically frightening stuff. It made hairs stand on end – this is absolutely true, even of people who had seen it before – not just on the back of the head but, in some cases, all over the legs. And Mallatrat’s framing device allows the incorporation of a devilish twist at the end, to drive home the fact that, as well as anything else, The Woman in Black is tragic.
Arthur Kipps: Julian Forsyth.
The Actor: Antony Eden.
Director: Robin Herford.
Designer: Michael Holt.
Lighting: Kevin Sleep.
Sound: Rod Mead.
Associate lighting: Tony Simpson.
Associate sound: Gareth Owen.
22-27 Oct 8pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Windsor 01753 853888 www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk
29 Oct-3 Nov Mon, Tue, Thu-Sat 7.30pm Wed 6pm & 10pm Mat Sat 4pm Wycombe Swan High Wycombe 01494 512000 www.wycombeswan.co.uk
5-10 Nov 7.45pm Mat Thu 2pm; Sat 3pm Audio-described & BSL Signed Thu 7.45pm; Captioned Sat 3pm Lyceum Theatre Sheffield 0114 249 6000 www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk
12-17 Nov Mon-Fri 7.30pm; Sat 8pm Mat Wed 2.30pm; Sat 4pm Billingham Forum 01642 552663 www.forumtheatrebillingham.co.uk
26 Nov-1 Dec 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Glasgow 0844 871 7648 www.atgtickets.com/Theatre-Royal-Glasgow
3-8 Dec Mon-Wed 7.30pm; Thu-Sat 8pm Mat Wed, Thu 2.30pm, Sat 4pm Theatre Royal Bath 01225 448844 www.theatreroyal.org.uk
10-15 Dec 8pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Palace Theatre Southend-on-Sea 01702 351135 www.southendtheatres.org.uk
17-22 Dec 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2pm Futurist Theatre Scarborough 01723 365789 www.futuristtheatre.co.uk
7-12 Jan Mon-Fri 7.30pm; Sat 8pm Mat Wed 2.30pm; Sat 4pm Wyvern Theatre Swindon 01793 24481 www.wyverntheatreorg.uk
14-19 Jan 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm New Victoria Theatre Woking 0844 871 7645 www.atgtickets.com/New-Victoria-Theatre
21-26 Jan 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Waterside Theatre Aylesbury 0844 871 7607 www.atgtickets.com/
11-16 Feb 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Norwich 01603 630000 www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk
25-30 March 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Richmond Theatre 0844 871 7651 www.atgtickets.com/
15-20 April 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Churchill Theatre Bromley 0844 871 7620 www.atgtickets.com/
29 Apr-4 May New Theatre Cardiff 029 2087 8889 www.
6-11 May The Lowry Salford 0843 208 6000 www.thelowry.com
20-25 May Theatre Royal Newcastle-upon-Tyne 0844 811 2121
27 May-1 June Curve Leicester 0116 242 3595 www.curveonline.co.uk
10-15 June His Majesty’s Aberdeen 01224 641122