Things That Go Bump In The Theatre: The Woman In Black Review

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‘A truly nerve-shredding experience’
Daily Mail

‘Don’t go unless you like being scared out of your wits’
Sunday Mirror

‘The audience were jumping out of their seats’
The Observer

‘The most brilliantly effective spine chiller you will ever encounter.
If you haven’t seen this show yet you are missing a treat’

Daily Telegraph


I absolutely love going to the theatre. Back in my school days I was convinced I was going to be an actress and studied drama and theatre studies til I was 18. Whilst the actress pipe dream didn’t quite go to plan, visiting the theatre to stay part of the drama is still the ultimate treat for me. From my studies I’ve been lucky enough to watch a wide range of theatre from Shakespearean classics at The Globe Theatre to the West-End’s cheesiest musicals such as (dare I admit this) Dirty Dancing *cringe*. But despite seeing endless productions, nothing could have prepared me for the theatrical experience of The Woman in Black.


Last Tuesday I bagged myself some tickets to see the 25th Anniversary Tour of The Woman in Black at York Theatre Royal. Having not seen the film or read the book, my expectations remained untainted. When I think of going to the theatre I, along with many others, associate it as a mostly uplifting experience of entertainment, comedy and intrigue. Not once have I ever associated theatre with a feeling of fear – until seeing The Woman in Black.

Woman In Black-York448
Julian Forsyth and Anthony Eden are the dynamic duo that bring the touring production to life after both playing their roles in the West End show.

It seemed rather fitting to be watching the production in Yorkshire, as the play was actually first performed down’t road in Scarborough in 1987. Interestingly, both actors In the York Theatre Royal production had played their parts in the West End production of The Women in Black, but never together.  Now in its 26th year on stage, The Woman in Black has become somewhat of a cult classic in the theatre world and was adapted from novel to stage production by the ingenious Stephen Mallatratt. The recent Hollywood film starring Daniel Radcliffe inevitably brought a revival to the stage version and an influx of new fans.


The play tells the spine-chilling tale of aging solicitor Arthur Kipps (Julian Forsyth) who is crippled by the fear that he and his family have been cursed by the ghost of the mystifying Woman in Black. He enrols the help of a young actor (Anthony Eden) to help retell his tale and the young actor assumes the role of Arthur Kipps’ younger self. As they rehearse, the audience is taken on a journey back to when Arthur Kipps first encountered the Woman in Black, when he was sent to a remote part of the UK to sort the papers of the deceased and mysterious Mrs. Drablow.


Julian Forsyth plays the unnerved and aging Arthur Kipps wonderfully.
Julian Forsyth plays the unnerved and aging Arthur Kipps wonderfully.

The whole play is set on the stage of a theatre, so the set is very raw and simple, with the stage being stripped back to its simplest form. With only two actors in the whole production, the real Arthur Kipps (Forsyth) plays various characters with flawless transitions within the story telling scenes. No special effects or fancy props are used so the dynamic duo uses physical movements and imagination to animate on stage entities such as a pony and trap, Spider the dog and a long causeway jutting out into the sea.


The first half of the play starts off quite awkwardly with a comical edge as the two actors slip in and out of rehearsal mode. You find yourself becoming absorbed in the drama, and then the rehearsed scene abruptly cuts and the actors break their assumed characters. I found this quite off putting at first, but you slowly adjust to the plays unique style.


By the interval the plot began to unravel, and the haunting mystery of Mrs. Drablow became more and more apparent. The second half really amps up the tension as jumpy moments and hair-raising shrieks are woven into the tale. Terrifying glimpses of The Woman in Black appeared when I least expected it, leaving me on the edge of my seat for the whole of the second half. I think the jumpiness of the play is what sets it apart from many other stage productions and gave it a real cinematic quality.


The Woman in Black is a truly unique piece of theatre. I’d strongly recommend it to who anyone who gets their kicks from a good fright and any sceptics out there challenging the fact that you can actually be genuinely terrified in a theatre!


The 25th Anniversary Tour is showing at various UK theatres until June 2013, or you can always catch the West End production as part of a Woman in Black Theatre Break.


Are you planning to see The Woman in Black this year?






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