Not normally one for horrors, my initial impressions were fuelled by excitement and nervousness. Naturally, the play is not a ‘blood guts and all thing gory’ horror, but one that does keep you tense and makes you jump at all the right moments. If it’s a thrill you like, then this is the show to see – especially if conventional theatre is not really for you.
”The characters referred to the audience, the parts they were playing and did their utmost to remind the audience that they were watching a play’’
For those who haven’t seen the film adaptation or read the original novel, The Woman in Black begins with Arthur Kipps (David Acton) having gone to an Actor (Matthew Spencer) to re-tell his experience of being sent to Alice Drablow’s estate in order to exorcise his never-ending stream of nightmares that follow his experience with the woman in black.
The play is fundamentally about the power of theatre and imagination (not the Woman in Black), with the character’s constantly flicking between the story they are telling and real life. The characters referred to the audience, the parts they were playing and did their utmost to remind the audience that they were watching a play. This did not stop the outbursts or nail-biting though, which demonstrates just how gripping theatre can be when it is done right.
”even the uncredited actress who plays Jenette deserves praise for her stealth and ultimate scare-factor’’
David Acton and Matthew Spencer are a great pairing, playing off each other’s characters flawlessly and establishing a believable friendship that was enjoyable to see develop and grow. The actors’ portrayal of multiple, convincing characters is testament to their ability. Without them this show would be nothing. Even the uncredited actress who plays Jenette deserves praise for her stealth and ultimate scare-factor. Every time she appeared on stage, although brief, made me want to hide my face.
”the silence that opens the show and lingers at specific moments only heightens the overbearing assaults of sounds and tension music created by Gareth Owen’’
It is obvious that director, Robin Herford, and his creative team have thought in depth about how to create the most tension for this production. The silence that opens the show and lingers at specific moments only heightens the overbearing assaults of sounds and tension music created by Gareth Owen. The sound was the most terrifying aspect of this production.
The scene changes and blackouts are also elongated so that during changes it reminded me I was part of a large audience.Even in the beginning silence, one person’s cough was suddenly subconsciously mimicked by others. This reminder meant that if one person screamed, you too screamed…then laughed.
“if you are someone that can sit through horror films with ease then you will be bored”
That being said, the script is relatively mediocre. It is clever in how it works to tell a story but the initial build up is slow and could have been clipped by ten minutes. The atmosphere established and the scenography developed by the technical team carried the production. Had these elements not been of a high-standard then the play would have lacked its complexity and would have been too simple to be enjoyed.
As a piece of theatre, The Woman in Black is remarkable but it is held together by the tension in the room and the soundscapes. If you are someone that can sit through horror films with ease then you will be bored as the story is not difficult to grasp. For those who, like me, jump at every moment and scan for any possible surprises, you do need to see this show because it will shatter any preconceptions you may have had about theatre and about this show.
Oh, and no imaginary animal was harmed in the making of this production.
7/10 – Great show but room for improvement
Image courtesy of The Theatre Royal
‘The Woman in Black’ is running at the Theatre Royal until Saturday 25th February. For more information, and to book tickets, see here